Year Up


“I was challenged, tested, and forced to break out of my shell. [At Year Up] I was learning and getting the experiences I had yearned for in high school. Year Up instilled in me the fact that I am capable of whatever I set my mind to. I learned how to lead, how to collaborate, and how to work in the best interest of not only myself but others as well. I am confident and comfortable opening up to others. And, importantly, I have found a place where I fit. I now know that I am limitless.”

-Stephen, Year Up graduate


Approximately five million young adults in the U.S. are neither employed nor in school. Year Up provides low- and moderate-income high school/GED graduates with six months of skills education, followed by six months of hands-on training at a corporate internship. Participants learn technical/career-specific skills (such as computer installation and IT networking), as well as professional/“soft-skills” (such as effective oral and written communication). Corporate partners host internships, often retaining students after graduation as employees.

Students sign a contract that they will attend the program regularly, be on time, and complete assignments. Based on their performance, they receive a weekly stipend. The program emphasizes support from peers, past graduates, staff, and volunteers, to help students resolve difficulties and maintain motivation. Year Up also partners with postsecondary education providers to house the program and provide technical training elements, allowing for faster, lower-cost scaling.


Year Up’s goals are to move students toward postsecondary education or employment and develop new talent pipelines for employers. In 2016, Year Up served nearly 3,000 students in 20 U.S. cities. Two-thirds were either employed or in school four months after completing the program with an average starting salary of $38,000 per year. A 2014 study found that over the first three years, the program boosts a young adult’s earnings by an average of 32%, or about $13,000 more than comparison youth who did not participate in Year Up.

Using Year Up’s program results, along with its per student implementation costs, we estimate the cost for a student to successfully transition to postsecondary education or employment at approximately $42,300. Given the relatively high starting salary of Year Up alumni, they more than earn back the resources invested in them less than two years after completing the program. Moreover, success breeds success: Higher starting salaries tend to continue and compound, leading to higher earnings for the rest of their lives.

Donor dollars don’t need to cover all the costs since nearly half of the program’s expenses are covered by companies that sponsor internships— often as a source of entry-level, professional talent.


Donations to the national organization help with ongoing monitoring and evaluation work (as well as curriculum development), support the growing alumni network, and aid in establishing new program sites. You can support the Year Up program through its website, where you can also locate a program in your community, or find information on bringing Year Up to your community or becoming a corporate partner.


A study of Year Up graduates shows that over time they earn more income than those who did not participate in the program.

  • Non-Year Up
  • Year Up

Source: Economic Mobility Corp. (2014);


Year Up participants earn higher hourly wages four years after graduation than their non-Year Up peers.

  • Non-Year Up
  • Year Up

Source: Economic Mobility Corp. (2014);


Year Up helps address a phenomenon known as the “skills gap” or “opportunity divide.” Employers contend they cannot find qualified candidates to fill middle-skill jobs, because there are not enough people with the credentials and education to fill them. Yet at the same time a group of young people is unable to access good jobs. Year Up helps fill this gap by training young people in the skills they need to succeed in middle-skill jobs, and by connecting them to the employers who need middle-skill workers. Donors can help fill the skills gap by funding community colleges, which—sometimes in partnership with programs such as Year Up and YouthBuild— provide training and certifications that local employers need.

In recent years, community colleges have been hit hard by state and federal budget cuts, putting more financial burden on students. Donors can support community colleges by giving directly to a fund or foundation run by the college, advocating for increased sustainable funding through state and local legislation, or fostering partnerships with local employers to subsidize programs that provide real-world experience and marketable skills.

Donors can also help raise awareness within businesses and corporations about the existence and advantages of tapping into pipelines of nontraditional employees, including formerly disconnected youth. This is the premise behind the Grads of Life campaign, profiled on page 16.