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Aldermen poised to approve job training program for at-risk residents

Aldermen+on+the+city%E2%80%99s+economic+development+committee+approved+a+new+job+training+program+last+month+focused+on+employing+at-risk+Evanston+residents.+City+Council+will+vote+on+the+issue+at+the+end+of+October.+
Aldermen on the city’s economic development committee approved a new job training program last month focused on employing at-risk Evanston residents. City Council will vote on the issue at the end of October.

Aldermen on the city’s economic development committee approved a new job training program last month focused on employing at-risk Evanston residents. City Council will vote on the issue at the end of October.

Daily file photo by Julia Jacobs

Daily file photo by Julia Jacobs

Aldermen on the city’s economic development committee approved a new job training program last month focused on employing at-risk Evanston residents. City Council will vote on the issue at the end of October.

Nicolas Rivero, Reporter

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Aldermen will likely vote this month to create a workforce training program to place at-risk Evanston residents in jobs with local small businesses.

The Evanston Small Business Workforce Development program would provide an initial $24,000 to reimburse businesses that offer “earn and learn” training to Evanston residents considered at-risk — including ex-offenders and those without stable housing or not on a traditional career path, said Paul Zalmezak, an economic development official.

The idea for the program came from the success of Curt’s Cafe, which employs and trains at-risk youth at two locations in Evanston, Zalmezak said.

“They met all of our benchmarks, they created jobs and the community really fell in love with them,” Zalmezak said. “Now we’re trying to create a broader program that any business can tap into and let the private sector use their creativity to come up with solutions to unemployment and underemployment.”

If the program is approved, businesses will be able to apply for up to $15,000 in funding to hire and train local residents, with preference given to training programs that result in employees getting a job-readiness certification. The city would reimburse businesses for a $3,000 stipend for all employees who have been on the job 90 days.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he is confident aldermen will approve the program when they vote on it on Oct. 26. Wilson and six other aldermen — a majority of the City Council — sit on the city’s economic development committee, which unanimously approved the workforce development program in September, sending it to the full council for a vote. If the council passes the proposal this month, businesses could begin applying for funds Nov. 1.

“One of the things we want to accomplish with all of our job programs is to broaden the options and opportunities available,” Wilson said. “Not just to have one type of job available or one type of training available.”

With a proposed $24,000 in funding for the remainder of the year, the city would be able to subsidize training for eight employees. Zalmezak said that although Evanston’s unemployment rate is already lower than the state and national average, the program would make a difference in the lives of the residents who enroll.

“We’re not going to solve all of society’s problems, and we’re not going to get unemployment to zero,” Zalmezak said. “But we’re going to get hard-working people into jobs.”

Depending on the program’s success this year, Zalmezak said he and Kevin Brown, the city’s youth and young adult program manager who spearheaded the proposal, may apply for $36,000 from the city next year to expand the program.

Email: nicolasrivero2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @NicolasFuRivero

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