Mayor’s summer employment program to add new small business employers this year


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Mayor Steve Hagerty at an event. The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program will kick off with a job fair on Saturday, featuring new small businesses as potential employers.

Clare Proctor, Reporter

Hundreds of Evanston youths will gather at Evanston Township High School on Saturday to enter a gym full of potential summer employers.

The Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program connects teens with summer employers, to develop the workforce and serve as a “non-law enforcement crime prevention initiative,” according to program’s website. Porschia Davis, manager and coordinator of the program, said there are significantly more small businesses coming to this year’s fair than in years past. Some new employers include The Golf Practice, Aqua-Guard Management and Studio SLK.

Davis said the program has had “good retention,” with nearly all employers from last year returning. Popular companies from previous years include Six Flags Great America, The Home Depot and Northwestern, Davis said, all of which provide “excellent training.”

“We’re able to market, attract and get kids from all walks of life to come and participate in the job fair,” Davis said. “To me, that’s really unique because it’s really intimidating for a young person to actually go to a job fair on their own.”

It is Mayor Steve Hagerty’s first year directly in charge of the employment program.t this time last year he was still a mayoral candidate.

Hagerty said he is “intentionally” keeping the program — which will kick off with a job fair on Saturday — the same as it was under former Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

“Mayor Tisdahl did a wonderful job building that program,” Hagerty said. “It would be questionable of me to suggest changes to a program that has worked as well as it has, without even going through one year of it as the mayor.”

Davis said she anticipates the number of student attendees to increase this year. She said 360 people have already pre-registered, but that city staff expects more than double that number to show up on Saturday.

The program has a residential restriction, only available to students living in the 60201 or 60202 zip codes, Davis said. Evanston taxpayer dollars help pay for the program, she said, so the program is a resource reserved for those residents.

“Money earned (by students in the program) will be spent here in Evanston,” Davis said. “So not only does it sustain our economy, but we’re teaching our young people, we’re keeping people off the streets and we’re keeping our streets safe.”

Nathan Norman, outreach work supervisor for Evanston’s Youth and Young Adult division, encourages all his “clients” from his outreach to attend the job fair, he said. Some clients grow out of the the program’s 14- to 18-year-old age restriction, but about 90 percent of those who fit the requirements go through the program, Norman said.

Norman said having a summer job helps give these youths “encouragement and motivation,” one of the primary goals of the outreach work he and his staff do.

“For us, it’s a pipeline,” he said. “Actually giving them some experience, the experience of working a job and collecting a paycheck, it actually projects self-worth within clients.”

Seeing former program participants working jobs in the community is a “gratifying” experience, Norman said, because he sees young adults utilizing the skills in the workforce that they obtained through the summer employment program.

Having a summer job in high school is a valuable experience, Hagerty said. When he was in high school, Hagerty worked for a business contractor, where he said he learned important life skills.

“You learn a lot about showing up on time, about having a positive attitude, about providing good responses, customer service, about taking direction and exercising good judgment and asking good questions,” he said. ““Having your first summer job, you just learn a lot.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ceproctor23