For some people, it apparently sounds too good to be true: free training that aims to help low-income young adults go from poverty to a professional career in just a year.
The Seattle non-profit Year Up runs the program, and promises it's legit. Yet so far, students have been hesitant to sign up. So what's the issue?
"People think it's a scam," said Year Up Executive Director Fred Krug. "That's sort of the joke we have, is that young people are like wait, I get paid to go learn and get an education and then get a job afterward?"
But that's exactly how the program works. Krug says Year Up is now working to spread the word, win over the skeptics, and ultimately help serve more students.
"Year Up is a one-year training organization designed to help young adults ages 18-24 to basically cross the opportunity divide. So basically young people who have not found their natural pathway to a four-year education or career living wage job," he said. "So we bring them in, train them for six months, prep them for entry level jobs, and then place them at a six-month internship at local or national companies we work with."
Students are even given a small stipend of up to $200 per week while enrolled in the Year Up program.
Krug said that Year Up's corporate partners like Microsoft, Expedia, T-Mobile, and others make that possible.
"There are companies out there and philanthropists out there who say we want to invest in young talent," he said. "So that's really what funds us. So yes, it's true, students don't pay anything and actually receive a stipend through the time they're with us for the year."
Between 30 and 40 percent of Year Up graduates are offered a full-time job upon completion of the program. About 85 percent of Year Up graduates end up enrolling in college full-time or working full-time.
"My internship was at Expeditors near Seattle. I was doing customs brokerage, and actually I got hired on so it was an almost seamless transition," said Cameron Ferguson, who graduated from the Year Up program on Thursday.
Ferguson, who was working in a warehouse prior to Year Up, said the experience changed his life.
"The work we put in, it's not easy. It's not meant for everybody, but it's definitely rewarding," he said. "You really want to put your best foot forward and give it your all."
At the very least, Krug says students walk away with new skills and a network of contacts that will hopefully help them land that next job.
So who can apply? Year Up students must meet certain criteria. For instance, applicants must be between 18 and 24 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
Year Up currently serves more than 3,600 students annually in cities across the country.
Year Up Puget Sound is actively recruiting students, with the next program set to start in September.
"It does work, and I think in every graduating class you will hear amazing stories," said Krug. "We're looking for grit. Somebody that is focused and determined and really wants to jump in and change their life in a given year."
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