Evanston reinvigorates jobs program

Sam Sullivan, Reporter

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Evanston recently took control of a program previously run by the Youth Job Center designed to give low- and middle-income workers the personal and vocational skills necessary to enter their desired careers.

About 20 applicants for the program, “Building Career Pathways to Sustainable Employment,” attended a pre-orientation meeting Wednesday at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. The applicants are vying for one of 15 spots in the program, which is open to Evanston residents 18 to 26 years old and includes a job-training course and on-the-job, career-specific training.

The program “engages the disconnected youth in the community,” providing a broad base of support for those without their own support system, said Nathan Norman, Evanston’s youth and young adult outreach worker.

Many of those in attendance were unemployed. Others were underemployed, holding part-time jobs while searching for more work to support themselves. Attendees heard from the YJC and several city agency representatives. Some reiterated that even those who are not selected for the program would still receive support from the YJC.

Participants accepted to the Career Pathways Program will first go through a two-week job-preparedness course designed to help those with little work experience gain skills many employers would take for granted in competitive applicants, such as arriving on time to work. After the course, participants will receive a $200 weekly stipend while undergoing on-the-job training.

In addition to the stipend, the city has partnered with local businesses to ensure participants will be employed upon completion of the program. The city will also provide assistance  in the form of transportation or clothing if a participant’s job requires it, Norman said.

The program is not unique to Evanston, said Kevin Brown, the city’s youth and young adult program manager. Brown said Evanston’s program is considered a “national best practice,” adding that organizations around the country implement nearly identical programs.

Brown helped transfer control of the Career Pathways Program from the Youth Job Center to the city, thereby expanding eligibility requirements and allocating it additional funds. Under YJC control, the program was limited to those between the ages 18 and 21, Norman said. Under city control, adults up to 26 years old can participate. In addition, participants will receive a stipend during their on-the-job training, which was previously an unpaid position.

Evanston and YJC staff will select the 15 participants Oct. 19, and the YJC-run training class will begin Oct. 24.