L-R: Former Year Up alumni (and current Neustar employees), Elora Powell and Rashad Smith arrive with CEO Lisa Hook.

At Neustar, we believe that our education system should place a greater emphasis on the technical subjects that are critical to our country’s future economic growth. And we  hope that more and more students will develop an interest  in  science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), if for no other reason than many of the best jobs in coming decades will require that background.

An interest in STEM, though, can begin in any number of ways. Perhaps a high school student gets to design her very own robot. Or maybe a local technology company gives a student, who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to learn these skills, an internship so they can learn technical skills on the job.

With this in mind, we are a corporate sponsor of Year Up, a one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, and corporate internships. This weekend, on behalf of Neustar, I was honored to accept Year Up’s Corporate Partner Award.

To help us celebrate this great honor from Year Up, two of our current employees, each an alum of the Year Up program, spoke at the awards ceremony about their experience at Neustar.

Elora Powell, currently an analyst in our Network Operations Center (NOC) admitted that she had questioned her career choice in information technology, but her Neustar team helped her to overcome her initial reservations. “Now as a full-time employee of Neustar,” she said, “I am proud to be a part of a team that invests in the next generation of young people who are interested in technology through programs like My Digital Life, the Cyber Security Competition and, of course, Year Up.”

Over the past two years, 11 Year Up interns have working at Neustar in positions all across the company. We’ve had interns working in our Network Operation Center, Data Center, Help Desk, and Quality Assurance Center. We’ve even hired three of our interns as full-time Neustar employees, and one continues to work for us as a contractor.

Rashad Smith, an analyst in our NOC, commented that the connections you make through programs like Year Up can open doors in unexpected ways. He said he believes Neustar’s culture of giving back and investing in others instills the same values in the rest of the employee base. “It is this very culture of giving back, investing in community, and creating a work environment that feels more like a family that makes me proud to wear the hat of a Year Up alumnus and a Neustar employee.”

The Year Up program is important to our communities, business and students because of the connections it creates for both the interns and the companies involved. We’re committed to Year Up, and to the concept it promotes, since it helps close the opportunity divide by making it possible for young adults, who might not otherwise have had the chance, to develop crucial workforce and STEM skills. Year Up gives us the opportunity to learn from the fresh perspectives our interns bring us, we can help prepare these interns for being full-fledged, tech-savvy employees in our industry.