Year Up matches urban youth to a hungry job market

Year Up is one of a growing number of organizations working to effectively equip under-employed youth with in-demand skills and connect them to the sectors and companies that need them most.

Published May 22, 2017

On his daily commute across the bay, Marcus Stevenson looks up at the new Salesforce tower under construction in downtown San Francisco and thinks: I’m going to work there someday.

“It’s really inspiring because I can see it from my house, all the way in the East Bay in San Leandro,” says Mr. Stevenson, who has been interning for the tech company for about three months. He chuckles at his newfound ambition. This time last year, the 22-year-old was stocking inventory at a grocery store and thinking only about his next paycheck.

“What I wanted was just to be promoted at Whole Foods,” Stevenson says, marveling at the turn his life has taken. “Today I’m looking at what decisions I can make that’ll help me get to that spot 10 years from now, where I can be a certified representative of my company and travel around the world.”

His new attitude comes after about nine months at Year Up Bay Area, the San Francisco chapter of a national nonprofit that provides urban youth with the skills, support, and experience they need to launch stable, profitable careers. Students – mostly young people of color from low-income families – spend 40-hour weeks learning everything from how to troubleshoot a computer and draft a business plan to how to write thank-you notes and give an authoritative handshake.

After six months, each student is placed as an intern with one of Year Up’s corporate partners.

“It’s kind of like a finishing school and a technical school at the same time,” says Renée Archer, the organization’s lead IT instructor.

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