Youth job fair to be biggest ever

Sophia Bollag, City Editor

The city’s youth employment program will attempt to help a record number of young Evanston residents find summer employment at its annual job fair this weekend, organizers say.

The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program hopes to help 500 local students find summer jobs at the event on Saturday at Evanston Township High School, said Porschia Davis, one of the organizers.

Last year, the event helped 260 residents ages 14-18 find jobs with more than 50 employers. 

“I’ve traditionally seen at least a 40 to 50 percent increase of kids being hired for summer jobs from year to year,” said Davis, who serves as the assistant manager for Evanston’s Youth & Young Adult Division. “We are expecting to see an increase in kids looking for jobs, and we have an increase in employers participating this year.”

Many ETHS students find their first jobs through the fair, said Ahmadou Drame, a career and job coach at ETHS.

“I think it’s especially helpful for those who wouldn’t have any options in terms of things to occupy their time during the summer,” he said. “It’s also helpful for students who are looking to get some experience and something to add to their resume before they go on to college.”

“For many of the youth, this is their first job experience,” said Lori Siegel, the associate operating officer and senior director at the McGaw YMCA, one of the employers at the fair. “So it’s a learning experience for them from the interview process all the way through the hiring. It’s the first time they’ve ever filled out the paperwork and had to be accountable for a job.”

At the fair, employers will conduct interviews with students. To help students prepare for the job fair, ETHS has been offering after-school training sessions on resume building and interview skills, Drame said.

ETHS itself will also offer about a dozen jobs at the fair, Drame said. The jobs provided by the high school will be part-time and will involve working in the garden across the street from the high school and working with a geometry class project to construct a house for a low-income family.

(Students, community members build house for ETHS geometry class)

All the jobs offered at the fair will pay at least minimum wage, Davis said. Employers that cannot afford to pay the full wages of young summer employees can apply for the city’s 50/50 program, which reimburses qualified employers for 50 percent of the wages of young residents they employ through the partnership.

The McGaw YMCA has had jobs at the fair through the 50/50 program in the past, and hopes to offer about 20 jobs through the program at this fair, Siegel said, adding that the YMCA has had a “positive” experience finding summer employees through the program.

“It’s why we continue to do this,” she said. “We look forward to the interviewing process with all the youth and it’s really been a win-win for both the youth in Evanston and for the McGaw YMCA to be able to support our youth as well.”

The fair will take place at ETHS on Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students must live in area codes 60201 and 60202 to participate.

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