Employment organization opens branch in Evanston

Giselle Mammana

Anita Bester’s first thought after she heard the words “laid off” from her boss was her two young daughters.

Bester had juggled her career and single-motherhood for years, and now that she was unemployed, the balancing act became hopeless, she said.

Her frustrations lessened when she became a client of the newly located Illinois Employment & Training Center.

Offering a “one stop career center,” the Illinois Employment & Training Center had its ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at its new address, 1615 Oak St. The workers at the center said they are optimistic that they will be able to help job seekers like Bester find new employment.

Margaret Smith, office manager at the center, said she gains satisfaction in helping a client achieve a higher-paying job.

“We do anything we can do to hear another success story, and that makes me smile,” she said.

The work inside the center is summarized into one slogan: building connections for businesses and people. The multimedia career facility integrates several services, such as expert career counseling, unemployment insurance, educational resources, links to community-based organizations and networking seminars with employers.

Many organizations – the Workforce Development Inc., the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the Housing Authority of Cook County, the Department of Human Services and the Community Economic Development Association – are brought together in one location.

“Evanston continues to be on the move,” said Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton. “This career center is another example that holds so much promise.”

The main focus of the center is education, which can help clients climb the employment ladder.

Michael Spiers, executive director of Workforce Development Inc., administers technology education and computer training from the center to those who want to improve their basic skills, he said.

The facility also connects Illinois employers with job seekers. One of the highlights of the center is the Illinois Skills Match, an Internet-based system that automatically selects and matches the best qualified clients with the most suitable employment.

Job seekers first write a resume containing their skills and previous job experiences, and employers then post jobs, specifying what type of employee they are looking for. The computer finally takes over and does the matchmaking, bringing an end to long unemployment lines.

The more people use the Illinois Skills Match program, the more it attracts employers and companies to post jobs on the Internet, said Mary Pepperl, president of the Workforce Board.

Pepperl emphasizes that the center is not just for people out of work, but for students seeking jobs as well.

“This is not an operation where people stand in line: It is an easy connection to the workforce,” she said.

Community leaders who attended the center’s open house Friday said they support the new career counseling services.

“I lived in many states, and a program like this continues to make Evanston second to none,” said Michael Kopler, Evanston’s postmaster.

Since becoming a client, Bester said she has improved her computer skills through the training program and continues to search for employment. She has narrowed her focus to finding a job that allows her to care for people, like food services, she said.