This June, I had the honor of delivering the Commencement Address to the Evanston Township High School Class of 2018, one of the finest graduating high school classes in the nation. Over the next few weeks, approximately 80% of those graduates will begin the next chapter of their lives as college freshmen. But for those students not attending college, the next step isn’t always as clear.

The Mayor’s Employer Advisory Council, which is a part of our citywide Elevate Evanston workforce development initiative, aims to develop sustainable career pathways for those Evanston high school students seeking careers that do not require a four-year college degree, while providing Evanston businesses with a pipeline of local talent. The Council has set a goal of moving 100 students per year directly into careers with Evanston employers by the time it sunsets in June of 2021.

Individuals and representatives of more than 30 organizations are on board, including ETHS, the City of Evanston, Oakton Community College, Evanston Cradle to Career, elected officials, nonprofits and businesses. (View a complete list at They have been hard at work this summer focusing on enhancing collaboration between Evanston employers and educators, and better connecting students with career opportunities right here in our city – and there are many.

Over the next several weeks, members of the Council will be making site visits to local employers to determine potential career paths for graduating Evanston seniors and to explore how Evanston educators and employers can facilitate students’ entry into those paths. Employers include Presence Health, Wintrust’s Evanston Community Bank & Trust, Hilton Orrington Evanston, the City of Evanston Water Production Bureau, Autobarn, Design Systems, S&C Electric, and NorthShore University HealthSystem.

The Council is also making connections to bring programs that have been successful in other cities to Evanston, including apprenticeship programs for the insurance and high-tech manufacturing industries.

If you’re a student, parent, or guardian interested in learning more about career paths in our community that do not require a four-year college degree, please save the date for the ETHS Career Options Night on March 14, 2019. All of the local employers mentioned above will be there, along with many other opportunities to learn about internships, apprenticeships, scholarships and more.

Evanston is fortunate to have a thriving, diverse business community, great schools filled with remarkable students, and a strong network of organizations committed to supporting their success. Nine short months from now, another group of very bright ETHS graduates will walk across the stage to accept their diplomas. Working together, we can ensure that each of them has a pathway to success.