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Year Up, a workforce development program for low-income students, comes to Charlotte

Year Up, a national nonprofit that aims to launch careers for low-income young adults, announced its first North Carolina site Tuesday at Central Piedmont Community College. This fall, 53 students began participating in the program, which provides intensive training, professional coaching, and internships at companies in the area. 

“We are excited because this partnership fits so well with the mission, vision and historic purpose of Central Piedmont Community College,” said Kandi Deitemeyer, president of Central Piedmont in a press release. “Central Piedmont has always been a driver of economic mobility. The college has always worked to build and offer pathways to careers and further education. We are proud to join with Year Up Charlotte and Bank of America as we seek to transform lives and bring new possibilities to individuals and their families.”

Over the next year, the program will reach 120 students ages 18-24 at Central Piedmont. The program is free, and students earn a weekly stipend. During the first semester, participants take “technical and professional skills classes” taught by a combination of Central Piedmont faculty and Year Up staff. Students spend the second semester at a full-time internship with Bank of America. Bank of America, the John M. Belk Endowment, and the Duke Endowment are funding Year Up’s Charlotte expansion.

“Year Up Charlotte will help bridge the divide between the talented, motivated young adults in this city in need of an opportunity and companies like Bank of America in need of their skills,” said Year Up President Cyril Turner in a press release. “As employer demand for this talent pipeline grows, Year Up Charlotte will quickly scale its impact throughout the community.”

According to Year Up, 90% of students who complete the program are, within four months, attending college or employed with average starting annual salaries of $40,000. The program focuses on high-demand careers. Tori Kendrick, a Year Up spokesperson, said Charlotte participants will choose between three tracks: project management, cybersecurity, and application development.

This year, the organization will reach over 4,500 students in cities across the country. The organization’s website says the program first identifies “young adults who are highly motivated but lack opportunities to enter the mainstream economy.” Kendrick said Year Up’s recruitment manager works with community agencies and current community college students to identify participants. Some but not all of Charlotte’s cohort were already Central Piedmont students. 

Kendrick said there were multiple factors that attracted Year Up to Charlotte, one being the organization’s partnership with Bank of America. 

“The statistic with Charlotte being 50 out of 50 of the large cities for economic mobility — that was one of the reasons,” Kendrick said. This statistic comes from a 2014 study from Harvard and UC Berkeley and has since been met with local pushes to improve education and housing affordability, among other initiatives. 

An August 2018 study by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation found Year Up to have a statistically significant 53% increase in initial earnings for participants: after the first year of the program, the study found randomly assigned participants to have 39% higher earnings compared to students in a control group. The second year after the completion of the program, the study found participants to have 40% higher earnings.

The study did not find the program to have a statistically significant effect on employment or college-going for participants two years after completing the program. 

Editor’s Note: The John M. Belk Endowment and Duke Endowment support the work of EducationNC.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.