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Year Up Program Helps Students Land Competitive Jobs

By Corey Murray

As pressure mounts to close the skills gap, this job-training “boot camp” brings businesses and community colleges together to empower disadvantaged youth.

There was a time, not long ago, when a community college education made all the difference for disadvantaged students.

The thinking was simple: Get students through that open door, help them earn a certificate or a degree in a competitive job field and the opportunity was theirs for the taking. All they had to do was seize it.

A higher education is a winning foundation for a successful career, but in an increasingly competitive job market, landing that new career often takes more than a two-year degree.

That’s part of the reason why Florida’s Miami Dade College (MDC) supports the Year Up program, a yearlong job-training “boot camp” that offers students access to real-world internships, college credits and other hands-on life skills, including interview training and personal finance coaching — all of which are designed to help students, especially those from low-income and urban families, take that next step toward a successful career.

In an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes (see the full video below), MDC president Eduardo Padron tells Morley Safer that internships, combined with some form of college education, are “the new credential,” agreeing that most students need more than just an associate degree to succeed.

Is he on to something?

As Safer reports, 100 percent of students who graduated from the inaugural Year Up class at MDC have been hired by local businesses or have gone on to advance their educations.

Across the country, Year Up, which, according to its website, currently serves more than 2,100 students, says that 84 percent of its graduates pursue higher levels of schooling or go on to jobs that pay at least $30,000 a year.

Impressive numbers, to sure. But they barely make a dent in the projected 6.7 million people in this country who have not yet earned more than a high school diploma. To make that kind of progress, Gerald Chertavian, the former Wall Street investor and tech entrepreneur who founded Year Up with the goal of helping disadvantaged youth ages 18 to 24, says he needs buy-in from more colleges.

Closing the skills gap

Chertavian aims to have as many as 100,000 students enrolled in his programs in the near future. His selling point: Every one of those graduates could contribute to solving a growing economic problem.

“We’ll have a shortage of skilled workers in this country, measuring at least 10 million over the next 10 to 15 years,” Chertavian says in the interview. “Our community colleges and four-year colleges are not producing enough skilled labor for this country on any projection you can look at.”

Padron tells Safer that he thinks the Year Up model and its successes can be replicated at other community colleges across the country.

“It’s not rocket science,” he says. “As a matter of fact, it’s a very simple formula.”

Does your college participate in Year Up or a program like it? Are you seeing results? Watch the video above and tell us in the comments.

Corey Murray

is editor of the 21st-Century Center.

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