Cathy Doyle is the Executive Director of Year Up, Rhode Island, a non-profit aimed at closing the opportunity divide by providing students with the skills and support necessary to reach their potential through careers and higher education.
How does Year Up see the labor market in Providence and what companies does it target?
We look primarily at the distribution of companies in the market. 90% of the labor market is small businesses and 10% is larger companies, like Lifespan, which employs 15,000 people. Big businesses are most apt to host Year Up interns, but we look across all sectors as entities who might hire our graduates. Employers will always want talented, motivated, pre-trained, entry-level talent. Despite dropping unemployment, we know there will always be a place for Year Up. We have a valuable resource in the 30 employers we partner with and are constantly incorporating their feedback in terms of how to make our young adults more hirable.
How has Year Up as an organization worked to convince companies that a four-year degree is not always necessary for success in the workplace?
We approach the conversation by showing them how many young adults they are leaving out of their pipeline. Employers are looking for diverse motivated talent, and if they only consider applicants with a bachelor’s degrees, they’re cutting out about 82% of that market. We have the tools to train young adults to succeed in those jobs. We make believers out of companies by putting proof in front of them.
What Rhode Island-specific policies does Year Up support and advocate for?
We want recognition that as a workforce development organization, we belong as a table for public funding. In Rhode Island, public funding is not always allocated based on measurable outcomes. 1,000 young adults have graduated from Year Up, Rhode Island and those 1,000 alumni are now contributing over $125 million in wages to Rhode Island’s economy. They are taxpayers, home-buyers, members of their communities, and are moving the needle forward in our state. Our results are proven and public funding would give us the ability to increase our impact.
How does Year Up’s partnership with the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) advance its mission?
There are 10,600 young adults in our state that do not have access to professional careers. Our work and the work of CCRI are both a part of addressing that need. Year Up knows that a young person can get their first two jobs without a degree, but we want to set our graduates up for long term success. Every credit a Year Up student receives is college credit recommended and is accepted at CCRI. We want our graduates to be life-long learners and CCRI is crucial to facilitating that continued education.
The number of opportunity youth in Rhode Island has decreased by 29% since 2010, what piece do you see Year Up playing in that?
Our work has a ripple effect. We have 1,000 graduates that have entered the workforce and they serve as proof of our model. We are training employers to think differently about hiring and have made advocates and champions out of many of the people that interact with our opportunity youth. By changing perceptions, our impact is greater than that 1,000 figure.