8 | COMMUNITY COLLEGE JOURNAL AACC.NCHE.EDU
While visiting one of our Northern Virginia
Community College (NOVA) campuses this
week for a student forum, I was thrilled
when waiting to greet me in the back
of the room was an amazing student
Darwin Vanegas came to NOVA as
a foster youth with the help of unique
counseling support our college provides
to low-income students in high school.
He soon discovered our partnership with
Year Up, a nonprofit organization that
connects young adults who need opportunity, with companies who need their
talent. Darwin leveraged his studies at
NOVA with the guidance he received
from the Year Up program, to gain
leadership skills and an entry point into
Virginia’s thriving tech sector.
Today with a meaningful corporate
internship experience through Year Up,
and a term as the student representative
on NOVA’s College Board, he is on track
to graduate this semester with a cyber-security degree and has planned his
transfer path to a major university.
Darwin is a success because of his grit
and tenacity and the combined opportunities made available to him. He is not a
NOVA success story. He is not a Year Up
success story. He is our success story.
MEETING STUDENTS’, EMPLOYERS’ NEEDS
Even while the unemployment rate
reaches a record low, millions of young
adults like Darwin between the ages of
18 and 24 lack not only the credentials to
access meaningful careers in growing
industries, but the wherewithal to find the
paths to those meaningful opportunities.
They are out of work and out of school, or
underemployed in minimum-wage jobs.
At the same time, companies are increasingly struggling to find qualified talent
amid a tightening labor market.
In the fall of 2015, NOVA decided to
partner with Year Up National Capital
Region (Year Up NCR) to provide young
adults in Northern Virginia with a proven
approach toward workforce development.
The provost in Woodbridge was a strong
early adopter of the Year Up program and
saw that NOVA and Year Up’s values and
goals for the community were in complete alignment: both worked to support
young people as they became reengaged
in their careers and education.
The first class of 40 students was a
big success: 100 percent were employed
and/or attending college full time within
four months of completing the yearlong
program, with average starting salaries
of $46,675 per year.
This is the first Year Up workforce
program that NOVA has worked with in
the National Capital Region, and it’s been
extremely rewarding. In fact, in 2018 we
served four times as many students – and
we will continue to expand the program
by adding a second Year Up location at
NOVA in 2019.
As college students, these young
adults have access to the library, tutoring
resources and other services offered by
NOVA, in addition to the services offered
by Year Up. Students work toward completing a degree at NOVA Woodbridge,
while Year Up NCR provides them with
professional development and work experience, preparing graduates to launch a
career in a high-growth industry. The
track specialties at this campus are cyber-security, business fundamentals and
helpdesk/desktop support. Year Up and
NOVA work closely with local companies
when developing the program curriculum to make sure students are gaining
in-demand technical and professional
skills as they work towards a degree.
INCREASING JOB PROSPECTS, EARNINGS
Our students face many challenges, but
NOVA and Year Up provide them with
the tools and support to ensure their
success. More than 70 percent of pro-
gram participants are new or re-engaged
students. They earn weekly stipends
throughout the year, and participate in
a full-time, semester-long internship
at a top company to gain valuable work
experience. The program also is free for
students, with funding provided by the
corporate partners who use Year Up NCR
as a pipeline of skilled, diverse talent.
Our students serve as Splunk Analysts,
Operations Interns and IT Specialists at
companies including Capital One, Fannie
Mae and Accenture Federal. After the
internship ends, 45 percent of students
are hired by their host company.
Year Up has an unprecedented impact
on the lives of young adults. A recent
federally-sponsored evaluation of the
nationwide program showed a 53-percent
increase in initial earnings for young
adults randomly assigned to Year Up
compared with similar young adults in
a control group—the largest impacts on
earnings reported to date for a work-
force program tested in a randomized
By Scott Ralls
Virginia Community College get tools and support to