Evanston partners with Northwestern and community organizations to provide residents jobs, training


Source: City of Evanston

Students line up at youth job fair run through Evanston. The Workforce Development Program expands on the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, extending opportunities to adults.

James Pollard, Reporter

Evanston is partnering with Northwestern University and other community organizations to help residents develop skills and find jobs.

Launched in 2014, the Workforce Development Program expands on the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, connecting teens with summer employment in the city. Wilson (4th) said the Workforce Development Program focuses on job opportunities for adults, giving them skills for future employment.

“It’s not really enough to get somebody that first job,” said Ald. Donald Wilson (4th), a member of the city’s economic development committee. “You don’t want to just stop there.”

Residents can apply for the program on the city’s website, at Evanston Public Library, at recreation centers or through the Evanston Youth Job Center, according to the city’s website.

In addition, Northwestern will provide opportunities for Evanston community members to take part in training programs alongside contractors working on construction, renovation and maintenance projects at the University. Contractors with projects valued at $1 million or more will be required to comply with this program, Dave Davis, the executive director of neighborhood and community relations at Northwestern, said in an email.

“Contractors may be granted waivers if they demonstrate that they’ve reached out to the city and/or unions and were unable to locate individuals suitable for their project,” Davis said.

Davis added that Northwestern has also funded a career partnership manager at Evanston Township High School through the Good Neighbor Fund. The position aims to develop sustainable career paths for recent ETHS graduates, ranging from ages 18 to 25.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th), the chair of Evanston’s economic development committee, said it is important that the city and University work together because of the presence the University has in the area.

“It’s important that the University partners with the residents and the city and organizations to support households with job opportunities,” Simmons said. “They’re a major employer in town and it’s a great way for Northwestern to show inclusion as they grow economically.”

In addition to contracting jobs at Northwestern, Wilson said the program will focus on a range of other skills like entrepreneurship, technology and coding. He especially wants to help residents start their own small businesses, teaching them bookkeeping and other business skills people might not learn in school.

Curt’s Cafe, which mentors and employs at-risk 15-to-24 year-olds, has also partnered with the development program. Wilson said Curt’s trains its employees in skills that lead to future employment in the food service industry.

Wilson emphasized that this program could impact a range of issues facing the city.

“When we talk about some of the broader issues in the community — for example, affordable housing,” Wilson said, “one of the fundamental problems is not just the cost of the housing, but the fact that people are not getting jobs and don’t have jobs that enable them to appropriately afford housing. So that’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

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