Amber Ikpe is a success story for upskilling.

Today, Ikpe works at the Information Technology Senior Management Forum (ITSMF), a nonprofit headquartered in Atlanta. She is the CRM manager, overseeing the databases. This is a far cry from the $7.58-per-hour service industry job she held prior to upskilling.

Thanks to Year Up’s one-year upskilling program, Ikpe got the education and training she needed to change her career path. Here’s how it works.

Year Up is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young adults through higher education and career development. The program puts more than 4,000 students each year through six months of classroom education and then six months in an internship program. They then get assistance in landing a job or pursuing higher education, and they get the backing of a 20,000-strong alumni network.

Ikpe’s internship was at Cox Automotive with additional support from Year Up.

“During the week, we would go to our internships. Then, on Wednesdays, most folks would come into the office of Year Up and talk about how things are going on the job and have our coaching sessions,” Ikpe says. “It was really wraparound support.”

After the six-month internship came graduation. Ikpe says students could decide to remain with the company at which they were working or pursue a post-secondary education. She did both. While working, she earned an associate degree through Gateway Community College. Now, she is working on a four-year degree through Central State University in business management while continuing her career at ITSMF.

Ikpe also works as a coach through Year Up Professional Services, or Yupro, to help others going through the Year Up program. Yupro is a staffing firm that places workers who have gone through the Year Up program.

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The Upskilling Movement

Programs like Year Up’s are not just for people like Ikpe. Even for workers in good jobs, upskilling is necessary. Research earlier this year by Gartner found that 58% of the workforce will need new skills to continue doing their jobs successfully.

As a result, firms are coming in with their own take on how do to it. And it’s not just firms in the workforce ecosystem, either. Enterprises are also getting on board with training workers and bridging the skills gap.

Last June, for example, IBM announced a collaboration with 30 global organizations — including governments, community colleges, nonprofits and employment agencies — to help underserved populations improve their skills and employability. It cites a statistic from the World Economic Forum that closing the skills gap could add $11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028.

Workers using training programs are doing so for a variety of reasons. From seeking a new, better career to embarking on a training journey to radically change their lives, people are taking online courses and trying varied programs, boot camps and more. The race to learn new skills for any number of reasons continues.  And the beneficiaries are companies — including staffing firms — and the talent. It’s a win for all.

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