Northwestern University has hired six young adults from Evanston for a new training program in partnership with the city to teach skilled trades to local young people and prepare them for full-time jobs.
Under the Northwestern/Evanston Skilled Trades Training Program, the University has committed to hiring six Evanston residents each year to participate in a one-year paid training program in the University’s Facilities Management Division.
At the end of the year, the young people would either be hired into full-time jobs at the University or have one year’s worth of experience to help them find jobs elsewhere.
The jobs also come with mentoring and life skills coaching from the University and the city, University Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah said.
On Monday, Chinniah and University and city officials greeted the six new trainees as they visited Northwestern’s Human Resources Department. Then they viewed an orientation video, toured the Segal Visitors Center and took a tour of the Evanston campus.
“We remain deeply committed to being in partnership with Evanston,” Chinniah said. “Through this program, we are providing on-the-job training for young adults from Evanston. As much as these young people will learn from the experience, we at the University will benefit greatly, as well, from their talents and energy.”
Chinniah and Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz were on hand to welcome the six new trainees to the program and to Northwestern University.
“We could not be more delighted to be with you, and we are thrilled to continue our partnership with the city,” Chinniah told the group, walking around a small table and shaking hands with the six. “We also hope while you are learning the trades that you will get to know a lot of us. You will have many people here to support you, and I hope some of you will stay on at the University.”
Greeting the six new workers, Bobkiewicz told them, “Northwestern University is a big part of the City, and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has been working to have folks like yourselves learn what you can from a world-class University. Mayor Tisdahl and President Morton Schapiro have been working together on this program, and they really want more Evanston residents to have these skills and opportunities. So, congratulations, and thank you, Nim.”
Sean Bagley, 30, one of the new trainees and a lifelong Evanston resident, said the prospect of learning the skilled trades was important to him, especially because he is supporting a 7-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
“Hopefully, it’s just something that will help me take care of her for the rest of her life — and help me as well,” said Bagley, who has worked in the past as a supervisor in the Evanston summer youth program and also for Evanston Streets and Sanitation. “For me, it’s more about building a better career, something stable. I’m always learning new things, and this is a chance to get my feet wet and take advantage of a new opportunity.”
John D’Angelo, Northwestern vice president for Facilities Management, who was also on hand Monday to greet the new trainees, said both the city of Evanston and the University “thrive because of our diverse and engaged community.
“There has been a national trend over the last few decades to move away from the skilled trades as a career. That has resulted in both a shortage of these critical professionals and a loss of economic diversity in many communities,” D’Angelo added.
“Northwestern is proud to partner with the mayor, the city and the community to ensure that we all continue to thrive, together, by providing these types of opportunities.”
D’Angelo welcomed the six new trainees and urged them to focus on two things in their work and their lives: education and credibility. “If you do that, there’s nothing you can do but succeed. Don’t ever stop learning,” he said. “No one can ever take away your education or your credibility. No matter what happens, we have to rise above.
“For us, we want to work with you and try to give you more than just trade skills,” D’Angelo added. “I want to make the conditions here right, so you could stay at Northwestern University for the next 50 years if you wish, but if you want to go on and work somewhere else after your time here, I’ll help you do that, too. That’s my commitment to you.”
Northwestern has developed the program in partnership with city officials, said Steve Kindrick, director of human resources for Facilities Management, who also welcomed the six new trainees on Monday, along with Kevin Brown, who manages the city’s youth and young adult program staff who helped recruit them.
The positions are designed to give the six employees direct work experience in the skilled trades, and they will start out working in the carpenter shop and the paint shop at the University. Next year, the program also would include work with the engineering departments, according to Kindrick.
In late 2015, the University will seek to identify the next group of six trainees.
The new program builds on other partnerships with the city, including Mayor Tisdahl’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which helps Evanston young people find summer seasonal work, as well as the Workforce Development Program, which hires Evanston residents for jobs on Northwestern’s construction projects.
These programs add to a growing collaboration between the University and the city as part of the University’s efforts to be a good neighbor and to have a positive impact on the residents of Evanston and the life of the community.