Year Up Wilmington is empowering young adults with the skills, experiences, and support to reach their potential.
Talent is distributed equally but opportunity is not. It is an unfortunate reality that affects hundreds of thousands of people across the United States. Due to social and economic inequities, very real systemic divides, and a lack of support, many young adults in underserved communities often find themselves only able to access low-paying jobs with little to no benefits. Year Up Wilmington provides these individuals with the chance to rise above this threshold.
“Year Up serves individuals ages 18-24 who are systematically excluded from education and employment opportunities—and are disproportionately Black, Latinx, or other people of color,” explains Peter Lonie, Site Director of Year Up Wilmington. This one-year workforce development program provides students with the skills, experiences, and necessary support to reach their full potential and access career opportunities.
During the program, students begin with a hands-on technical training portion for six months, which prepares them for middle-skill roles with leading employers in and around Wilmington. Year Up Wilmington aligns this training to industry-specific needs in fields which desperately need talent. This market research resulted in Year-Up including training programs focusing on data analytics, financial operations, consumer banking, and software development. Year Up is constantly re-evaluating these fields to ensure students are equipped with in-demand skills.
After the six-month learning and development period, students earn an internship at one of Year-Up’s corporate partners, including Chamber members JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Sallie Mae, and WL Gore & Associates. “The majority of students turn their internships into a job offers, and all earn valuable experience which increases their access to living wage careers,” says Lonie.
Year Up has a strong collaborative partnership with Wilmington University, which generously contributes its space, resources, and faculty for the benefit of the program and its students. Throughout their training with Year Up, students are dual enrolled at Wilmington University and can earn 22 credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Earning credits toward a college degree is a luxury many cannot typically afford; a huge benefit which many leverage to continue working toward a degree. Year Up also maintains a strong partnership with Zip Code Wilmington, which provides technical training in Software Development, enabling students to enter careers as full stack developers. Students also receive outside support throughout the duration of the programming, including a weekly stipend, transportation, technology, and emergency fund support.
As for the success of the program, the proof lies in the numbers. For Year Up’s January 2022 graduating class, 96% of graduates are employed and/or pursuing postsecondary education. Eighty-six percent of graduates are hired into full-time roles pertaining to their training, and the average wage is $27.56 an hour, or $54,000 a year. “Despite the numerous pandemic-related challenges, we are proud to see our graduates seizing opportunities for economic stability and mobility,” remarks Lonie.
Since its inception in 2017 in Wilmington, Year Up has served nearly 400 students to date, with an ever-growing number of alumni and supporters invested in growing equal-opportunity communities.
“Year Up has helped provide me a future
that at one point, I couldn’t see worth living,”
says graduate Ammanuel Falice.
Year Up has provided that vital second chance to so many worthy individuals.
Year Up Wilmington has earned a 2022 Superstars in Education award in the Higher Education category, a testament to the dedication they have provided to their program graduates. “This recognition truly highlights the tenacity and grit our students display each day as they complete our rigorous one-year program, as well as the hard work of our staff and the strength of our community and corporate partnerships,” says Lonie. “Most importantly, it is a testament to the impact our innovative program is making in closing the opportunity divide and providing meaningful career opportunities for young adults in our community.”
By Regina Donato