Program prepping students for high-tech careers

April 27, 2012 5:01:36 AM PDT
High expectations. High support. That's the model for a program that promises to start young people on the road to success in just one year.

It is how an engineer turned school administrator is showing his Spirit of Giving.

Twenty-year-old Christian Delgado is one of about forty young people getting hands-on preparation for a high-tech career by enrolling in Year Up.

"I had part-time jobs and I just didn't know where to get started for college," he said. "I didn't know where to start.

"Year Up is a year-long program," said executive director Alan Anderson. "We work with young adults ages 18-24 who have a high school diploma or GED and simply put, we take them from poverty to professional career in one year."

For the first six months, the program teaches professional skills. And through a partnership with Harold Washington College, students earn college credits in information technology. They spend the next six months working as a corporate intern. Accenture is one of fifteen area companies participating so far.

"What we like about Year Up is the fact that they are laser-focused on helping people get jobs," said Accenture Chicago managing director Michael Scimo.

And so is Accenture. Jose Felix interned at Accenture through Year Up and was hired full time in their IT department.

"My plan was to be in an environment like this," Felix said. "I think by joining Year Up, I was able to fast track that."

Year Up started in Boston in 2000. Anderson, a former Motorola engineer turned Chicago Public Schools administrator, founded the Chicago chapter in 2010.

"There was another side to me that was focused on social responsibility, so I always had tutoring or mentoring going on outside of my life at work," he said

Mentoring is a major component of year up. Twenty-two-year-old Toni Ellis who is a single mother of two boys says the extra support is critical.

"They help with housing and transportation," Ellis said. "They help with food, childcare, anything you can think of that you might need outside of year up."

Anderson says that help beyond the academics keeps students focused and increases their likelihood to succeed.

"The students average at $5,700 dollars of income prior to entering the program," he said. "By the completion of the program, we say within four months of graduation 85% of our alums must be at a livable wage or continuing their college education. We say livable wage is making on average $30-35,000 a year."

Year Up, which currently serves about 140 students, is planning to expand to accommodate up to 800 young people by the end of 2014.