Year Up operates in nine nationwide sites to provide urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Their intensive one-year program provides high school graduates and GED recipients between the ages of 18-24 with a combination of hands-on skill development and corporate internship opportunities. Year Up aims to help low-income, low-skilled adults access and complete training leading to employment in high-demand, well-paying occupations. Operated by an organization of the same name, Year Up provides young adults with six months of full-time training in the IT and financial service sectors followed by six-month internships at major firms. The full-time program provides extensive supports—including weekly stipends—and puts a heavy emphasis on the development of professional and technical skills.
The program randomly assigned 2,544 study participants to either the treatment group or the control group and spent an average of $28,290 per participant. The following approaches were implemented:
- Rigorous screening of participants to ensure those who enroll are committed to the program;
- High level of employer engagement, including mobilizing private-sector financing of paid internships;
- Availability of stipends throughout the training and internships, combined with engaging instructional practices and comprehensive supports;
- Continuous engagement with staff, participants, and other stakeholders (e.g., employers, college partners, and funders) around applying the program’s values of hard work, learning, and continuous improvement; and
- High fidelity to the model across sites, including the use of performance measures and a strong business ethos as reflected in the infusion of business language, concepts, and tools throughout daily activities.
The primary research questions were as follows:
- Was the Year Up program model implemented as designed across the program’s eight offices?
- How did employment, training, and related service experiences differ between young adults randomly selected to participate in Year Up (the treatment group) and those who could not access the program (the control group)?
- What were the effects of access to Year Up on earnings, career-track employment, postsecondary education, and related outcomes? How did these effects vary across subgroups and across the eight local offices?
Major Findings & Recommendations
The overall key findings were:
- Year Up implemented its program with high fidelity to its design.
- Year Up had positive effects on the scope and nature of services received by its students.
- The effects on earnings were consistently large and positive.
Year Up continued to grow and evolve during the study because the leadership continued to refine the program by standardizing the admissions processes, centralizing curriculum development, expanding flows of interns to large employers, and extending the period of postgraduation employment supports. They also reduced costs by leveraging instruction and other resources at partner institutions.
The following findings were reported on employment and earnings:
- Year Up increased average quarterly earnings by 53 percent, the largest earnings gains measured to date in random assignment studies of workforce training programs for youth and adults.
- Every subgroup of participants experienced higher earnings, as did all eight local Year Up offices.
- Substantially more treatment group members were working in career-track jobs.
The following findings were reported on education and training:
- Impacts on postsecondary enrollment were mixed.
- Year Up increased attainment of industry certifications and licenses by over 18 percentage points.
- Treatment group members were not more likely to receive a college credential.