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Community Close-Up: Year Up Greater Atlanta

Across the country, there are more than 5 million young adults who are workforce eligible but have no jobs or low-paying jobs. And, across the country, there are an estimated 12 million well-paying jobs that will go unfilled in the next decade.

Those 12 million jobs will require postsecondary education. And many of the 5 million young adults who are disconnected from stable career paths aren’t qualified today because, despite talent and motivation, they lack access to higher education. And as a result, they lack access to careers that will provide them with financial security and a living wage.

This gap that exists between unfilled jobs and people eager — yet currently unqualified — to fill them is known as the opportunity divide.

An organization in Atlanta is aiming to bridge it.

Year Up Greater Atlanta is a unique program model that provides a one-year intensive workforce training program for young adults ages 18-24 who are unemployed, underemployed or not in school. Through a combination of hands-on skills development, college-level coursework, corporate internships and wrap around support services, nearly 1,000 young adults from Metro Atlanta have discovered new career and educational pathways that were previously unimaginable.

The Year Up program is designed as a high support, high expectation model with a holistic approach focused on the professional and personal development of the student.

Year Up aims to place young adults on a viable path to economic self-sufficiency and position them to fill high-paying jobs with reputable companies.

During the first six months of the program, students develop technical and professional skills in the classroom. Then, they apply those skills during six-month internships with one of Year Up Greater Atlanta’s 50+ corporate partners, including Google Fiber, Cox, General Electric, Kaiser Permanente, Elavon and many more.

The program provides underserved young adults with the skills, knowledge and experience today’s businesses require, helping them along their path toward a successful, stable career. And as a result, Atlanta businesses and employers will gain access to a wider pipeline of well-trained and well-prepared talent, helping them achieve their business goals and compete in a global economy.

Over the past two-plus years, the Year Up Greater Atlanta’s team has served 330 young adults and achieved positive outcomes for more than 93 percent of its students. Their goal is to one day recruit enough volunteers and foster enough support to be able to serve 1,000 Atlanta students annually.

One way they are working toward reaching that goal is by forming innovative partnerships throughout the community. For example, Atlanta Technical College (ATC) and Year Up have joined forces to provide a college pathway to young adults in the program. This year, Year Up will expand its reach and serve more than 410 students, including 160 individuals who will be dually enrolled in the Year Up program and ATC.

It is clear that the team and volunteers at Year Up actively change the trajectory of young people in the Metro Atlanta community. The program’s unique approach starts with the end in mind — empowering young adults to go from no jobs or low-paying jobs to professional careers paths in just a single year.

Every day, young people in the Atlanta community face the notion that they have less opportunity simply because of their zip code, their skin color, their parents’ finances or their assigned school district. The team at Year Up believes It doesn’t — and it shouldn’t — have to be this way. They’ve made it their mission to combat these challenges head on every day to open doors and provide access so Atlanta’s young adults can change their life trajectory.

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©2019 Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine

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