The Youth Job Center (YJC) kicked off a new career-pathways program in late February. The automotive service-and repair-career pathways program, for 18-to 25-year-old youth, combines job-readiness training, subsidized work experiences in the automotive field and industry-recognized certification programs, all designed to lead to living-wage employment.

“Career Pathways programs are a comprehensive approach to putting youth on a track to economic stability,” said YJC Director of Programs Amanda Deisch. “Our 10-day job-readiness training sessions prepare youth for the realities of work.”

Once youth successfully complete all 10 workshops in job-readiness training, they participate in a subsidized work experience in an automotive-service-and-repair setting.

“We are happy to be one of the internship sites,” said Larry Cohen, service director with the Autobarn in Evanston. “We can always use an extra pair of hands, and the real-world experience really helps prepare young people for employment in the industry.”

Each of the 15 youth in the program is participating in an internship, a 200-hour work experience in which YJC pays the stipend. “Youth have to interview for the internship. It’s only going to be successful if we have total employer buy-in, and that starts with the initial interview and continues through the 200-hour internship,” saids YJC Career Pathways coordinator Nichole Morrison. “We’re fortunate to have excellent internship sites for this cohort, including the AutoBarn, Duxler, Rolf’s and Midas.”

Every youth in the program also participates in classroom instruction leading to certification. “The automotive program is an excellent example of true collaboration,” said YJC Development Director Kim Hoopingarner. “Oakton’s workforce education team developed and designed a customized automotive maintenance curriculum specifically for this program, and the curriculum leads to the first step of complete ASE certification, ensuring participants are knowledgeable in critical areas. The curriculum is taught by OCC instructors but delivered at Evanston Township High School in its automotive lab.”

“This program really connects all the dots,” said Colette Hands, director of workforce development and corporate training at Oakton Community College. “In job-readiness training, youth first learn the soft skills associated with any job – work ethic, conflict resolution, and customer-service skills. Then they gain hands-on experience through their subsidized internship and earn a credential which opens doors to employment opportunities in the future.”

“The Career Pathways programs at the YJC have been overwhelmingly successful,” said Ms. Deisch. “Over 90% of youth who complete all three pieces of Career Pathways are securing permanent, full-time employment in the specific industry sector. That’s an incredible return on investment. We anticipate similar results with the automotive program when it wraps up in May.”