Northwestern, Evanston begin trade skills training program

Tori Latham, City Editor

Northwestern launched a training program Monday in partnership with the city that will teach Evanston residents trade skills they can use to find full-time jobs.

The Northwestern/Evanston Skilled Trades Training Program aims to teach young adults skills like woodworking and electric and plumbing work that will contribute to their future employment opportunities at the University or other businesses, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily.

For the first year of the program, NU hired six trainees. Four will learn carpentry skills and two will learn painting skills, said John D’Angelo, the vice president for facilities.

“Those are two skills that are in much demand,” D’Angelo said. “For the next year, not only are they going to learn trade skills, but they’re going to learn other kinds of leadership and mentorship skills that will help them throughout their careers.”

The University hopes to offer training in expanded areas, such as engineering, next year, the school announced.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and University President Morton Schapiro have been talking about a partnership for a while, Bobkiewicz said.

“There’s so many opportunities on campus for jobs … and they kind of came up with, is there an opportunity to do trade apprenticeships?” Bobkiewicz said.

The program addresses two issues facing the city, D’Angelo said.

“Our country really has not been incentivizing our youth to go into the skilled trades, and we’re facing a skilled trade shortage as the existing workforce starts to age,” he said. “The second problem is our communities are strongest when they have a broad socioeconomic diversity, and without really good jobs in Evanston, you start to see a loss of economic diversity.”

NU pays the trainees a salary and provides them with uniforms and safety equipment, D’Angelo said. The city’s youth and young adult program staff helped to recruit the trainees, the University announced. They all went through a pre-screening and interview, similar to a regular job-hiring process, D’Angelo said.

D’Angelo said he hopes the program will succeed, and praised the first group of trainees involved.

“We want to try and create the momentum necessary to make this a program that continues on and on and on, and that really depends on us being able to attract young men or young women of the caliber of this first six the city has helped us find,” D’Angelo said.

Although the program will only train a small number of residents at a time, Bobkiewicz said he thinks it will have a large impact on those who participate.

“It’s a small start, but I think it allows Evanston residents to get good skills and then hopefully have those skills to have good paying jobs moving forward,” Bobkiewicz said.

Marissa Page contributed reporting.

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