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Opinion | How to Go From Homelessness to Venture Capital

Year Up is also experimenting with shortening the six-month training for some people. “We have to meet the students where they are rather than say everyone goes through the exact same programmatic experience,” Chertavian said.

For older workers, Year Up has developed a program called Grads of Life, which helps companies gear their hiring and promotion practices for diversity, equity and inclusion. One thrust of the organization, which operates as a subsidiary, is getting companies to relinquish their insistence on bachelor’s degrees for jobs that don’t truly require them.

I asked Mutsinzi for his thoughts about Year Up. His story is colorful. He decided to attend a small Christian college in Oklahoma even though he had essentially no money and only a partial scholarship. He thought he might earn the rest of the tuition by playing basketball, but he wasn’t good enough. A friend told him about a community college in Maine so he transferred there, not realizing that there were also community colleges in Oklahoma. He studied in Maine for two years but again ran out of money. Then came Boston and Year Up.

Mutsinzi is smart and charismatic and managed to impress some influential people along the way. Seth Klarman, the billionaire co-founder and chief executive of the hedge fund Baupost Group, invited him to his office, where they talked for an hour. Mutsinzi had an internship at JPMorgan and converted it into a full-time role, then moved to KPMG and later Cambridge Associates. Over this period he earned a bachelor’s degree online through Southern New Hampshire University and put on charity basketball tournaments to benefit Year Up, raising, he said, about $100,000.

Mutsinzi said that he agrees with Chertavian that for some people, the six-month training program can be sped up. He also agrees with Year Up’s cost-saving initiative of moving more of its training out of expensive downtown office space, affiliating with community colleges and using space there.

Most of all, he said, employers should open their minds to hiring people who don’t check all of their boxes. (I’ve written about this before.) He’s still thankful to a manager at KPMG who made an exception and gave him a full-time job even though he hadn’t completed his bachelor’s degree. “I was already there, doing a good job,” he said. “It’s really absurd that they would have required that piece of paper.” (“KPMG has made its degree requirements for certain positions more flexible in recent years,” James Powell, the national partner-in-charge of university talent acquisition for KPMG, said in a statement released to me today.)

Good employment matches require serious effort and fresh thinking by both students and employers. “Year Up is almost a hack to a broken system,” Chertavian said. “You’d want to change the system.” He added: “It’s partly consciousness-raising. If we can change people’s beliefs, we have a shot at changing their behaviors.”

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