As unemployment levels across the United States remain high, the focus of many is on a “quick fix” to create jobs. Government officials grapple with interest rates, tax hikes, and trade tariffs to create an environment for job growth. What you don’t hear enough about is addressing the jobs that are going unfilled. In San Francisco, we have the unique problem of tech companies struggling to fill their open positions. This is a different challenge, and will not be solved with a “quick fix”. Top social media companies Facebook, Linkedin, Spotify, and Yelp! have come together in support of Year Up to tackle the issue.

Spotify provided the music for Year Up’s Social Networking Gala in downtown San Francisco.

An Intensive One-Year Training Program

To understand why top tech companies in San Francisco are supporting Year Up, you must understand their mission. The mission of Year Up is:

“to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education”

Year Up is a one-year, intensive training program that provides urban young adults 18-24, with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend and corporate internship. The corporate internships are critical to the program, as many top Bay Area tech companies have hired Year Up graduates on as full-time staff. 84% of Year Up graduates have full-time employment within four months of graduation.

Year Up is a national organization founded by Harvard Business School graduate Gerald Chertavian in Boston in 2000. They opened up their first Bay Area office in downtown San Francisco in 2008. My first exposure to Year Up came in April 2009. I was invited by current Manager of Corporate Partnerships Sahaar Rezaie to speak with their first class of students about searching for a job. During my first visit. I also met Executive Director Jay Banfield. It was obvious that they were passionate about their mission. It also stood out that they have a strong business model and savvy. Every student was dressed professionally, looked me in the eye, gave me a firm handshake, and clearly had the desire to be present and make a positive change in their life. That moved me, and I have been a strong supporter ever since.

Year Up Bay Area has grown to serve 160 students per class in San Francisco, from the original class of 20 that graduated in 2009.

The Social Networking Gala held by Year Up showcased their growing maturity in the Bay Area.

Top Tier Tech Companies On-Board

This past Thursday night, Year Up hosted a “Social Networking Gala” in downtown San Francisco.  Headline sponsors for the event were eBay, Facebook, Linkedin, Spotify, and Yelp!.

My wife and I walked into the Gala in downtown San Francisco, and we were taken back by the high production value of the event. This was not the same little organization serving 20 students at a time out of a small downtown office. I told her, “it looks like Year Up is all grown up!”.

Year Up is clearly gaining steam in the Bay Area. There were 400 people at the event including corporate partners, alumni, current students, and various supporters from the area. We were certainly impressed by the turnout as well as the quality of the event. This is a direct reflection of Year Up’s leadership combined with the spirit of San Francisco’s business community.

Attendees of the Social Networking Gala moved between tech lounges, like the Facebook lounge signified by the blue lights upstairs.

Executive Director Jay Banfield reflected on the success of the event, but stresses that there is much work to be done, “On Thursday, we celebrated our third anniversary with corporate partners EA, Wells Fargo, LinkedIn, eBay, Facebook, Twitter,, Yelp, Spotify and Zynga.  Now that Year Up has become a national organization, we are looking to close the opportunity divide that exists for the more than 5 million young adults who are disconnected from the economic mainstream.”

What’s Next For Year Up?

As a national organization, Year Up is currently serving 1,300 students. During the event, they stated that their goal is to serve 100,000 students across the country. To do this, Year Up is growing their internal team with passionate individuals. In addition, there is a continued need for business partnerships and support. Your investment of time, money, or opportunity is welcomed.

Year Up looks for successful people in the business community who can share their time in mentoring students. They are also seeking organizations and philanthropic groups who can donate money. Finally, Year Up is seeking businesses that can engage Year Up students in an internship and/or full-time opportunities after graduations from the program.

I will continue my part in making sure that students who are successful in the Year Up program have the best opportunity at a positive outcome. I see companies looking for top talent each and every day. The challenge of filling those positions is not a quick fix. We can bridge the gap by investing in the young people of our community, and providing them with the tools and opportunity to grow as business people. This will take energy, dedication, and resolve but makes the journey all the more worthwhile!

Jason Webster

Jason Webster is a social recruiting enthusiast and co-founder of Ongig, a platform that creates shareable, visually-appealing job descriptions. He has spoken at multiple social recruiting events, where his passion for candidate experience is the primary topic. Connect with Jason and Ongig on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

by in Community

  • Christena R.

    It takes a village to make this change. The support of not only the organizations mentioned in this posting, but countless individuals and organization make it possible. Thanks for recognizing the numerous challenges that Year Up is working to address. It was a joy to host both you and your wife at the Year Up Bay Area Social Networking Gala.