Nearly a quarter of teens in America are jobless this summer. But thanks to a federal grant an Evanston agency has been able to put a few of them to work.

Nearly a quarter of teens in America are jobless this summer. But thanks to a federal grant an Evanston agency has been able to put a few of them to work.

About 30 young people have jobs that help them develop skills for future employment through the Youth Job Center of Evanston’s Summer Youth Employment program.

The program is funded by the Federal American Recovery & Reinvestment Act that was signed by President Obama in February.

“The stimulus money has opened up new learning opportunities for youth that they might not otherwise have,” says Amy Nelson, the Out of School Summer Youth Employment Counselor for the Youth Job Center (YJC).

“It’s beneficial for everyone because the employers don’t have to pay for the additional summer employee, and the youth have a chance to develop valuable job skills and experience in the areas they have interest.”

The program is part of the Summer Youth Employment Campaign, administered by the Workforce Board of Northern Cook County, which aims to provide a strong, qualified workforce by assisting students in obtaining their high school diploma or secondary education certificate or degree.

It also helps students acquire and maintain skills necessary to enter the workforce in a position they normally would not have been able to attain on their own.

The Youth Job Center is establishing internships for out-of-school youth ages 18 to 25, who qualify under the Workforce Investment Act provision. The federal program provides about $125,000 to the YJC to help low-income youth with multiple barriers, such as basic skills deficiencies or socioeconomic status, to gain employment. The youth have the opportunity to gain 300 hours of paid work experience in career fields.

In the program, 20 area employers will provide work experience opportunities, including significant on-the-job training, supervision, guidance, and reinforcement of professionalism and job expectations. The program promotes positive work behaviors in the areas of punctuality, attendance, appearance and good conduct.

The YJC is placing participants in various workplaces around the community according to their interests, skills and suitability, including the Evanston Community Media Center, Family Focus and CJE Senior Life.

The participants receive intensive job readiness training through YJC pre-employment workshops and classroom instructions, as well as receive pre- and post-job-readiness assessment through Illinois Worknet.

Jennifer Stasch, executive director of the Workforce Board of Northern Cook County, says this attention to individuals has helped the YJC set a positive path for its participants.

“Successful programs like the Youth Job Center work upfront with the youth, understanding what their interests are, hearing their thoughts about careers and working with those youth to place them at work sites that maximize those interests,” Stasch says. “The youth then better understand what the job entails and understand the direction they might want to pursue.”

The YJC has already completed workshops focusing on topics such as resume building, workplace ethics, and interview skills.

Youth also receive career counseling, job coaching and will be linked to post-secondary and apprenticeship opportunities. Other services available to the youth participants include transportation assistance, clothing, childcare referrals and transition planning.

After the youth complete their internships, the YJC will assist them in finding permanent placing while also providing follow-up support for one year. Nelson hopes to continue setting up internships while building lasting partnerships with employers and the community.

Nelson says the program is a much-needed spark to an even brighter future for the students. “They are starting now as interns, but who knows where their path will go in the future,” she says. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help them get their foot in the door to follow the career of their choice.”

The Youth Job Center of Evanston prepares youth ages 14-25 for success in the workplace through job-readiness, placement and employment support in partnership with employers.

For more information, contact Amy Nelson, Out of School Summer Youth Employment Counselor at 847-864-5627 ext. 25 or

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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