Tech program revives urban youth

With a 22 percent increase in employment rates for computer related occupations by 2020, programs like Year Up aim to help students obtain jobs in these areas.
Year Up is a one-year program that is divided into six months of classroom learning and six months of internship. With a new school year approaching, Year Up plans to recruit its 10th graduating class for the Seattle division and its first class in the Bellevue program.

Year Up was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000 by Gerald Chertavian as an effort to support young adults who lack the opportunities to have a successful future. The program was built upon Chertavian’s mission to bridge the opportunity divide – provide low-income young adults with the necessary skills to thrive in a professional environment. Year Up hopes that the education and skills the young adults receive will empower them to realize their potential in their future careers. According to Marquez Taylor, the Outreach Specialist of Year Up’s division in Puget Sound, “The founding board members brought the program to Seattle because there’s a huge need for it.”

“Year Up came to Seattle to provide opportunities for young adults to have their foot in the door of these huge companies like Microsoft, Google or Facebook,” Taylor explained. “Right now, they’re looking at the young adults who have the skills, but don’t have the access to the higher education or the resources to perform in these companies.”

Following the program’s mission, Year Up in Puget Sound is seeking students who are between the ages of 18-24 and demonstrate a financial or academic need. “We’re trying to reach young adults that are really interested in programming, game development or software development,” Taylor said, “We’re looking for students who are really struggling in the traditional course tracks or have financial strains.”

Washington’s Year Up program is separated into two categories, IT and hardware in Seattle and software development and programming in Bellevue, which will be launching its first cohort of students this summer quarter. During the first six months of classroom learning, students will be receiving a weekly stipend of $50 at the Bellevue division and $150 in the Seattle office. Students will be able to earn up to 47 BC credits, free of charge.

Students who plan to enroll in the Bellevue program should expect to begin by this summer. The classes will be held at Bellevue College North campus. “At Bellevue College, students will be starting with software development and programming. They have to be ready to sit in front of a computer for a couple hours a day,” explained Taylor. In addition to the full course load, students at both divisions are expected to attend “feedback Fridays,” when the staff, faculty and students of the program gather to share their thoughts on the journey and give each other constructive advice. “This really helps students work on their growth areas,” said Taylor.

The classes, however, will not only involve programming and IT, but also courses in business etiquette, interpersonal communication and an optional English class during the internship.
Once students begin their internship period, they will be paid $200 in both the Bellevue and Seattle programs. Year Up also helps students network with hiring companies. “Students will be introduced to a huge professional network. I think this is a huge asset to our graduates,” said Taylor, “We’re setting up a foundation, so students can have access to CEOs and start networking.”
Jaime Ramirez, who began the program on March 2014, is a student of Year Up’s seventh graduating class. Ramirez described his experience with the program as “epic.” Ramirez enrolled in the Seattle division and learned IT and quality assurance. “They teach you really well, so that when you go into the internship phase, you’re well prepared,” said Ramirez.

Before starting the program, Ramirez explained that after graduating from high school, “I applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs and didn’t get calls back. They were normal jobs too, like McDonalds or Burger King.” After completing the program, Ramirez’s efforts were more successful, saying, “I get a call and an email back, every time.”

“Year Up prepares you so well, that you’re going to be a success in any company,” said Ramirez.

Following his first six months, Ramirez began his internship at Google. Ramirez plans to continue his education and finish his bachelor’s, which will be fully paid by Google. In addition, Google is planning to hire Ramirez after he completes his degree. “Google really liked how I worked and my motivation, which I learned from Year Up.”

If he did not participate in the program, Ramirez said, “I’ll probably be working and being in college, not knowing how far I could progress. It’ll have taken me 10 times longer to get where I am right now.”

Year Up has placed 100 percent of their students into internships and 85 percent of their graduates are employed or attending a university within four months of completion of the program. Year Up graduates, on average, have a starting salary of $16 per hour, which annually, totals out to about $32,000.