The Youth Job Center helps youth aged 14-25 to find employment.

Established in 1983, the Youth Job Center of Evanston (YJC), 1114 Church St., has assisted more than 20,000 young job seekers with job placement, employment counseling and ongoing support. Dedicated to preparing youth ages 14-25 for success in the workplace, YJC works to support the disadvantaged population of Evanston and Chicago.

“We believe when you invest in young lives, everyone in the community benefits,” says Director of Development Kim Hoopingarner.

The program was founded by Evanston resident Ann Jennett who, while working as a career counselor at Evanston Township High School in the early 80s, saw a need for kids not attending college. The program that began as a drop-in center for students looking for work has evolved into a multi-tiered service center.

YJC’s core placement services provide direct job placement assistance, offers job search support and guidance, and conducts job-readiness training and workshops focused on topics such as interview skills, application completion and resume assistance.

The Center also provides unique job-training programs such as the Strategic Corporate Alliance (SCA), a three-week training and technology skills-based course designed to help young adults ages 18-25 secure full-time employment. It also offers Women Invested in Learning and Livelihoods (WILL), a series of workshops providing a bridge of support for employed women ages 18-25 by equipping them with the tools and knowledge to advance in their careers.

The Out of School Youth Career Program (OOSY) for age 17-21 is collaboration between YJC and the Workforce Development Board of Cook County. Qualified candidates receive up to two years of funding to attend approved colleges and technical programs. The Youth Intern Experience is a subset of the OOSY program and provides two ten-weeks of intern experience in an area of career interest. Interns are paid through a grant provided to the YJC.

Younger students ages 14-16 can take advantage of the Summer Tutors Program which provides District 65 teachers with teenage tutors to assist in their summer school classes.

All YJC services are free.

Education and employment have been identified as integral steps to break the cycle of poverty. According to KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 17% of children in Illinois are living in poverty.

“Programs such as the ones offered through YJC are critical,” says Ms. Hoopingarner. “We are finding many students are under-prepared for jobs. They need a basic understanding of how to conduct themselves, how to write a cover letter and how to follow-up. We provide that training here.”

As millions from the baby boomer generation begin to exit the workforce, jobs are becoming available. But as Ms. Hoopingarner points out, the key component is preparing and training students for the actual jobs that exist.

“There are jobs out there,” says Ms. Hoopingarner. “Our task is to act as the intermediary between those jobs and the students.”

The Outpost, YJC’s satellite office at Evanston Township High School, assists students with job readiness and placement. The Outpost also offers ongoing eight-week “Learn to Earn” after-school workshops.

“The Outpost has been a successful venture and our hope is to expand this easily replicable program into other schools in Chicago,” says Ms. Hoopingarner.

The Outpost makes the YJC programs accessible for students, but there needs to be a level of commitment and self-motivation on the part of the students, as well. All prospective YJC clients must fill out a YJC Jobseeker’s Application and attend an orientation. Once the orientation is complete students are placed in the program that best meets their needs and are matched with a counselor.

“We try to mimic the actual employment process,” says Ms. Hoopingarner. “Students need to make an appointment with their job counselor and keep that appointment.”

Some kids are job-ready when they arrive at the Center, but others are not. Students may have multiple barriers such as criminal backgrounds or literacy issues. The initial assessment evaluates the students’ skills and barriers before placing them in a program.

As a not-for-profit agency, the Center depends on support from donors and volunteers.

“We are always looking for people to help, from leading job-readiness workshops to assisting with our annual fundraiser,” says Ms. Hoopingarner.

Next year’s spring fundraiser will be held on May 7 at the Museum of Science and Industry.

To find out more about the YJC go to www.youthjobcenter.org or call 847-864-5627.