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Facebook expands nonprofit partnership to train local youth without college degrees

 
Jay Hammonds speaks at a Year Up graduation ceremony in January. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.)

After his first year of college in Alabama, Oakland native Jay Hammonds ran out of money. Forced to move home, where he felt he didn't have many opportunities without a network or strong resume, he worried about what he would do next.

He had received a flyer from a college counselor about a program called Year Up, and decided to follow up on it. The national nonprofit offers young adults ages 18 to 24 a free six-month career training program, followed by a six-month internship that comes with a weekly stipend. Hammonds applied, got in, and the rest is history.

Today, he works as a VIP operations technician at Facebook and does information technology work for the company's top executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and CIO Atish Banerjea.

The skills and training he received through the program, he said, enabled him to succeed in a corporate environment without a college degree. And today, he is working to make that opportunity available to other young people.

Since being hired at the company, Hammonds said, he and several colleagues have worked to advise and guide other Year Up interns. The company reports it has hired 91 Year Up graduates and worked with 200 Year Up interns thus far.

The company recently announced an expansion of its partnership with Year Up Bay Area to host an on-site office for the nonprofit and provide internships to 40 young people enrolled in the program every six months, with a preference for applicants from Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City. Students who successfully complete the first six months of training will be guaranteed a Facebook internship and an opportunity to earn a full-time position after graduating from the Year Up program.

The expanded program was tailored to train people for positions Facebook needs filled. The Year Up program at Facebook will provide training in the areas of help desk/desktop support and project management support, and internships in IT and recruiting. The first formal class of Year Up Facebook interns is set to start in September.

"As we grow in Menlo Park, it is increasingly important to hire strong local talent and create opportunities for our neighbors," said Bernita Dillard, who works on local recruitment at Facebook.

Through the program, interns will receive both a mentor, whose role is to help the student network and navigate day-to-day corporate life, and a guidance counselor tasked with coaching the student through other workplace situations that might arise.

Coming from the inner city, Hammonds said, it took some learning to adjust to work in a corporate environment. The training he received taught him "soft skills," such as email etiquette and how to run a meeting, network, and shake hands.

"It was really the soft skills that propelled me in an environment like Facebook," he said.

While his Year Up experience resulted in a satisfying job offer, he said, the end goal of Year Up isn't necessarily for Facebook to hire participants. For some, the program may inspire a return to school or boost confidence for whatever next step they choose.

Diversity

Facebook's announcement of the Year Up partnership came days after the July 12 release of its annual diversity report. The report indicated that it had made some improvements in hiring more women and people from historically underrepresented racial groups, but acknowledged, in the words of the company's Chief Diversity Officer Maxine Williams, that it has "so much more still to do across the board."

Since 2014, the company has increased the percentage of its black employees from 2 percent to 4 percent and Hispanic employees from 4 percent to 5 percent. The report noted, however, that the percentage of black employees in technical and leadership roles remained flat, as did the percentage of Hispanic employees in technical roles. The percentage of Hispanic employees in leadership roles decreased from 4 percent to 3 percent.

Hammonds said he thinks the Year Up program could help the company's diversity numbers, but more directly could help the community by training and potentially hiring "local talent that happens to be diverse."

Overall, Year Up Bay Area reports that 37 percent of its students are Hispanic and 22 percent are black/African American, and that among graduates the average starting salary is $47,000 per year. A federally sponsored evaluation of the program found that it resulted in 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 biggest increase reported for a workforce program tested with a randomized control trial.

Plus, Hammonds said, previous Year Up students have had impacts within the company and the teams they work on. "This is a big win on both sides," he said.

Go to yearup.org for more information.

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