AOL and Year Up

Diverse and Productive Entry-Level Talent Accessed at Competitive Cost


After over 25 years, AOL Inc. (AOL) is still very much a pioneer and is in the business of making the Internet better – period. Through innovation and creativity, they have raised the bar for high quality content and media advertising online. AOL leads with a network of premium and niche content sites, and an extensive offering of world-class tools and platforms. With the imperative to provide innovative products and valuable services to multiple customer lines, AOL looks for skilled talent to join their workforce of over 5,000 – particularly among technically savvy youth. Since partnering with the outside organization Year Up, AOL has been able to draw talent from a previously untapped pool of vetted, trained, diverse, and enthusiastic young people who come to them first as interns.

Business Outcomes

  • Successful entry-level recruitment strategy
  • Reinforce diversity strategy
  • Pipeline of skilled and vetted talent
  • Risk-free talent exploration

Student/Employee Impact

  • Gain corporate experience
  • Earn college credit and stipend
  • Establish a career pathway

Year Up

  • Corporate internship
  • Technical training
  • Career entry opportunity
  • Cover 8,500 participants
  • 32% of alumni are currently enrolled in college or have already graduated from college

High-Tech Companies Need Technically Skilled Talent Pool

One of the difficult challenges for many employers is finding skilled entry-level talent. According to AOL Senior Technical Director Maureen Jules-Perez, AOL “looks to attract the best talent and wants this to include young people with applicable abilities and the will to succeed.” Since 2007, AOL has partnered with Year Up to build a pipeline of future talent and develop a career pathway for these employees.

AOL annually contracts with Year Up for a specific number of interns based on their organizational needs. When the young people show up for their six-month internship, they have already completed six months of rigorous classroom training that includes the essential technical skills needed to meet AOL’s basic skill requirements. They begin their internships with the expectation that further internal training will quickly make them productive, contributing members of technology teams in areas such as IT, network operations, desktop support, and operations analysis. AOL supervisors find Year Up interns to be “smart people who want to learn,” and they vie for incoming candidates.

“The Year Up interns come to AOL with a strong desire to succeed and a foundation of technical skills to build on. This is an investment in our local communities and the digital future.”

– Maureen Jules-Perez, Senior Technical Director & AOL/Year Up Internship Program Lead, AOL

Leveraging the Investment

Once interns are on board, AOL makes strategic investments in these young people that mirror the Year Up experiences of “High Support, High Expectation.” AOL created the “Year Up Success Program” that taps managers to provide interns with a range of developmental experiences based on three well-defined pillars: mentoring, training, and consistent feedback.

The internship period allows AOL to observe the interns’ hard and soft skills, and at the same time, the interns are able to explore potential careers at AOL. AOL considers the sponsorship fee, approximately $23,920 per intern, to be a competitive cost for access to a skilled talent pipeline.

At the end of the internship period, graduates who prove to be a good match for available openings may well be offered entry-level positions with annual salaries beginning at $35,000. As full-time employees, the young people gain access to AOL’s online training portal, AOL University, which provides instructor-led training and thousands of learning resources.

AOL has extended the Year Up partnership to their Dulles, Baltimore, and New York City offices and is currently fielding inquiries from their San Francisco, CA office.

A Partnership that Serves Multiple Constituencies

In their partnership with Year Up, AOL has found a diverse pool of skilled and highly-motivated young people who are proving to be a significant source of vetted, entry-level workers.

During the first six months of rigorous classroom training at Year Up (National Capital Region), interns are co-enrolled at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), earning 18 hours of college credits. Interns also earn a weekly stipend to offset living expenses during the entire year. Although most of the interns come from difficult life situations, the majority make the most of their Year Up training and develop the skills and connections needed to embark on a path to economic self-sufficiency.

After the training period, Year Up “guarantees” AOL a successful intern match that comes at no risk beyond the one-time fee. Year Up then communicates closely with AOL throughout the program participants’ internships. For example, when AOL noted that interns needed basic skills in LINUX systems, Year Up quickly integrated the LINUX training into the curriculum.

To date, AOL has worked with over 85 interns and has converted many Year Up interns to full-time employees and plans to continue that practice.

“We are really satisfied with Year Up, particularly their special care of their interns both during the selection process and throughout their internship. As a result, we have already hired 2 Quality Assurance associates after their six month internship period and starting in August we will be running a 24/7 International Tech Support pilot project with five interns provided by Year Up.”

– Otto Toth, Chief Technology Officer, Huffington Post

Personal Story

At 23, Colby Reece was working a dead-end retail job, having withdrawn from Morgan State College after two years. The pressures of both work and school were too much. When he heard that Year Up offered the opportunity to earn college credits and gain a corporate internship while receiving training and a stipend, he applied and was accepted into the program in northern Virginia. After six months of classroom instruction with Year Up, Colby was matched with AOL. At the end of his internship, Colby was offered a full-time entry-level position with the AOL Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team. With AOL for nearly two years, Colby credits Year Up with instilling in him the professionalism required to “get in the game,” and he is thankful to AOL for continuous mentoring and training. Colby is now back in college at Northern Virginia Community College, with the intent of earning a bachelor’s degree, made possible by the flexible work schedule and living wage AOL offers.