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High-impact giving
Young women in a library.

Work study

Equipping low-income young adults to earn a living wage.

Approximately 5.5 million young adults in the U.S. are disconnected: unemployed and not in school. Work experience and continuing education can help low-income youth earn a living and become productive members of the workforce for employers in need of trained professionals. Here we profile one organization that matches motivated youth lacking opportunity with skills training and a chance to gain professional experience.

Year Up

What it does

This training program operating in 18 cities provides low-income high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 with six months of skills education, and six months of hands on training at a corporate internship. Participants learn technical skills (such as computer installation and networking) and professional/"soft skills" (such as effective oral and written communication). Corporate partners host internships and often retain students after graduation as employees.

Students sign a contract that they will attend regularly, be on time, and complete assignments. They receive a weekly stipend that's based on their performance of the contract. Stipends typically vary by local cost of living, market conditions, and the phase of the program, and range from $50 to $190 a week for the first six months of skills instruction, to $150 to $260 weekly for the internship phase.

How effective it is

Of students who start the year-long program, more than three-quarters, or 77%, complete it. All students who complete the first six months of training are placed in an internship with a local company. Within four months of the program's completion, 89% of Year Up graduates are either employed or attending college full time. The current average starting salary for Year Up graduates is $18 per hour, equivalent to $36,000 per year.

A 2014 external study that followed a cohort of 195 students revealed that the program boosted a young adult's annual earnings by an average of 30%, or about $13,000 more than a similar group of young adults who did not participate in Year Up. By contrast, the annual cost to society of a disconnected youth is about $14,000 in lost revenue and expenses.

How you can help

The cost of moving a student through the program is approximately $51,000, nearly half of which is covered by the companies who hire Year Up students as interns and potentially eventual full-time employees. The philanthropic cost, therefore, is about $26,000 per successful student. You can offset the philanthropic portion of the annual participant cost by donating any amount to Year Up's donate page, or even sign up to become a corporate sponsor.

Personalize this project

You can support Year Up in your community by donating money, becoming a volunteer mentor, or providing internship opportunities. You can also consider other evidence-based programs working with the disconnected youth population, such as YouthBuild and the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe, or go to Service and Conservation Corps' website for a map of youth-targeted groups by state.


Look for programs that emphasize a living wage, provide comprehensive support to help participants complete the program, and have clear connections between skills training options and likely future employment opportunities.

Within four months of the program's completion, 89% of Year Up graduates are either employed or attending college full time.

Please note that this article does not represent all the organizations that address equipping low-income young adults to earn a living wage. Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations and provides this list for reference purposes only. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees.

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