Educators are nearly unanimous that education does not end with graduation from high school. To be viable contenders in the workplaces of tomorrow, young people will need education or training or both after they complete high school.

At an informational presentation at BooCoo on Sept. 29 sponsored by the Youth Job Center and Youth Technology Corps, YJC executive director Sacella Smith said youth must have “a combination of academics and experience to get permanent placement in a job.”

Shelley Gates, chair of the applied science and technologies department at Evanston Township High School, said as well, “There is no way to make a good living any more without post-secondary education or training or certification.” On the career side, she said, ETHS is “very close” to achieving “automotive service excellence,” the highest certification.

On the academic side, ETHS offers STEM courses – in science, technology, engineering and math – for college credit as part of Project Lead the Way. “We want all kids to think about careers and the steps to get there,” Ms. Gates added.

Mary Collins, volunteer coordinator at ETHS, said she tells students that volunteering at an organization can lead to employment.  “Kids may want something to do and they also find they want or need a job. I tell them, ‘Start as a volunteer. Prove to yourself what you’re capable of, and then you can prove to someone else what you’re capable of.’”

With coursework as well, ETHS has been paving the way for its students to follow a path from high school to career, even for those students who say they do not plan to attend college. In conjunction with Oakton Community College, eligible ETHS students can take classes that help prepare them for careers in criminal justice and firefighting.

For after-school techies, Youth Technology Corps offers a taste of training in technology and business, as they learn to upgrade computers and find new homes for them in local not-for-profit organizations. Last spring the group donated refurbished computers to the Mitchell Museum.

Andy Thomas, director of YTC at ETHS, said for YTC students “technology is a means to an end.” He spoke of the “‘no fear’ technology – kids will take computers apart to learn how to put them back together.” He said the program offers “problem reduction” as well as business skills: “Students learn more about the community’s needs and what they can do to help,” he said – and they have to market their product, the refurbished computers, to the not-for-profits.

YTC also helps prepare students for the workplace by folding the YJC “Learn to Earn” curriculum into their activities. “We teach practical skills and work on pre-job training,” Mr. Thomas said.

Oscar Hawthorne, assistant superintendent/principal at ETHS, said programs such as Youth Technology Corps and services such as those provided by the Youth Job Center “not only show a path to success but really teach the soft skills that are necessary to success.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...