Science Applications International Corp. is leveraging a program designed to give opportunities to underserved young adults and supply employer partners with entry level, middle-skilled talent. Year Up is a national nonprofit with programs at many top companies, including SAIC. Participants complete six months of learning and development followed by a six-month internship.
“We have been very pleased with the interns we have supported,” said Dave King, SAIC senior vice president of operations of Federal Civilian Customer Group, and a champion of the value of the program.
Year Up works to close the opportunity divide by connecting the estimated 5 million young adults disconnected from career pathways with some of the estimated 12 million jobs expected to go unfilled in the next decade as companies struggle against a shortage of skilled workers. More than half of individuals in the Year Up program have completed some college but lack a degree, and almost as many experience financial hardship. Just 14% receive government assistance, while 54% are unemployed at the time of application.
King and his colleagues have championed Year Up’s mission by working with their customers and SAIC program managers to identify entry-level internships that align with the technical tracks Year Up provides as part of its training.
Executives at SAIC have mentored and developed interns in help desk and desktop support. Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Karen McWilliams is a member of the Year Up board of directors while early-career advocate Diana Easton and inclusion and diversity advocate Juan Garcia are active in the program.
“Year Up interns are trained to give feedback by their Year Up instructors, making their first role as an SAIC consultant ideal,” Easton said. “They also have a tremendous amount of grit, which helps them to be accountable, adaptable and dedicated in their focus to be customer service-oriented and solve technical problems. The combination of technical aptitude and a great attitude, as well as a desire to be a continuous learner despite economic barriers for access to higher education, make Year Up interns the perfect kinds of talent we look for.”
Interns are given support, guidance, hands-on training, educational stipends, advisers and mentors, a behavioral contract and ample feedback. Standard training covers public speaking, spreadsheet skills, business writing, computer applications and career development. Participants then select from tracks in IT, financial operations, sales and customer support, business operations or software development.
The company has seen three of its six Year Up interns enter full-time entry level roles supporting Civil Customer Group clients at Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Other interns have supported the National Archives and Records Administration, research and development and communications.
Year Up is in 26 cities and on 33 campuses across the nation and has served more than 26,000 students. Nine out of 10 graduates find employment or enroll in college within four months of completing the program.
The Year Up program is structured differently than traditional annual and summer intern programs for college students.
“Year Up has wonderful intern supervisor collateral material and support to be able to guide a supervisor who might be interested in supporting an internship throughout the six-month process,” Easton said. “SAIC can also share with Year Up the kinds of skills we might require in advance of the placement process to determine if specialized training or certification attainment might be helpful.”
Examples of specialized training aree A+ or Security+ certification for an IT role or systems analyst role.
Throughout the year, representatives from SAIC attend Year Up events, visit Year Up campus locations and get to know the young adults enrolled in the program.
“Attending Year Up events allows SAIC to be engaged in our local community efforts to enrich the dialogue in considering alternative hiring paths and to celebrate intern announcements and intern graduation from the program with other great employers in the D.C. region,” Easton said.
Easton said the company is excited to see where the Year Up relationship leads as three interns have already been assigned to full-time associate level SAIC employees in customer service/IT site support service desk positions.
“It is a fun and rewarding relationship, and to see these young adults thrive and develop is important to our SAIC culture and mission,” Easton said.