Here They Come, Corporate America: Year Up Chicago Transforms Urban Youth into Professionals

By Eleanore Catolico

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

In a downtown office building, sharply dressed young men and women exude confidence as they prepare for the challenges of the corporate workforce.   All they needed was a shot at reinventing themselves.

Established in 2000 in Boston by Gerald Chertavian, Year Up is a national non-profit organization working tirelessly to end this nation’s socioeconomic divide by inviting young adults to participate in a year-long professional development program.

Year Up is mending that divide with passionately trained people that, historically, executives would have skipped over their resumes.

“Our intentional focus is working with young adults who don’t have access to opportunity,” Year Up Chicago Executive Director Alan Anderson said. “[Businesses] often hire talent in terms of a certain skill set, but people sustain an organization based on professionalism, dependability, reliability.”

After a rigorous application process, Year Up accepts 40 students each learning cycle and serves approximately 2,100 students.  Year Up has expanded in the U.S to cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and our own Chicago, which began its Year Up branch in 2010, and focuses on information technology.

The highly-intensive professional training is separated into two distinct periods.  First, accepted students are placed in learning communities and take classes in specialty areas like information technology or software installation and more socially-oriented customer service and career networking.

The second period involves student placement at a high-profile company, where they put what they’ve learned to the test through a six-month internship.  Some of the Year Up Chicago corporate partners include AT&T, Exelon, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and CareerBuilder.

“That’s the beauty of that six month internship because they can verify that these young adults are going to demonstrate the skills on a consistent basis to meet their business needs and if they do, they end up hiring them,” Anderson said.

Year Up provides holds each student at an impeccably high standard.

For Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Branding at CareerBuilder Jamie Womack, Year Up Chicago additions to the company have positively changed the energy of the CareerBuilder work environment.


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