Growing and Diversifying the Year Up Model

YearUp logo

Year Up is a non-profit, sectoral training program that helps young adults, ages 18 to 24, build skills for success in high-demand, high-wage careers, such information technology (IT) and business services. The program provides six months of industry-specific and career readiness training, followed by an additional six months of paid internship with a local employer. Year Up is committed to overcoming the opportunity divide and intentionally recruits students isolated from education and work. Over 90 percent of Year Up participants are individuals of color, and virtually all are from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Since its inception, Year Up has served more than 36,000 students and established itself as one of the most promising sectoral programs in the country. Multiple rigorous research studies have shown that Year Up’s program creates a 38 percent boost in earnings five years after participation. The program enrolls 4,000 students a year but aims to increase the enrollments by 80 percent and serve 28,000 students from 2021 through 2025.

Year Up has created a variety of alternative program pathways intended to serve a wider population of students with diverse skill levels and needs. However, Year Up’s time-intensive assessment processes have made efficient placement difficult and has limited their ability to serve a broader population of students.

Partnering to Assess and Improve Year Up

To address this challenge, the PROMISE Center is partnering with Year Up to co-develop assessment tools that can more systematically identify students’ workplace readiness skills and needs, allowing Year Up to provide more tailored support. PROMISE is developing a suite of tools that Year Up can use to evaluate students’ skills when they enter the program and determine the type of training necessary for student success.

In the future, PROMISE hopes to develop similar evaluation tools to track students’ skills as they progress through the program, providing a more accurate picture of their workplace readiness to prospective employers. Our goal is that these types of skills-based measures can be used by the wider field, allowing employers to more accurately assess individuals’ skills, diversify their pool of candidates, and improve underserved populations’ access to high-wage jobs.

PROMISE is also working to understand how Year Up recruits its participants from underserved communities and how they support their success. We will share lessons from this work, along with research on the effectiveness of the new assessment system, with the larger workforce field.


The PROMISE Center is directly supported by the AIR Equity Initiative, AIR’s $100+ million five-year investment to advance equity in several important areas: workforce development, education, public safety and policing, and health. The AIR Equity Initiative is committed to investing in the generation and use of high-quality evidence that address the harmful effects of segregation by race and place.

Image of Christina Curnow
Managing Director, Human Capital Solutions