Interim Director of Parks and Recreation Audrey Thompson walked around the ETHS gym, chatting with students, city employees and representatives from more than 50 businesses and approximately 15 city departments Saturday during the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program Job Fair, held at Evanston Township High School.
The doors opened at 8 a.m. and closed at noon, but during those four hours, approximately 700 registered students ages 14 to 18, most from Evanston zip codes 60201 and 60202, showed up to meet and interview with prospective employers.
The purpose of the job fair is to help Evanston youth get paid job experience with real-world labor expectations. Organizers also hope the teens gain job-specific skills in addition to basic financial literacy and social-emotional growth during their nine-week summer job experiences.
There were jobs available in seven different categories including summer camp, administrative, food service, career track and retail. Some were full-time and others were part-time; the rate of hourly pay was included for each position. The vast majority were in Evanston, but other locations included Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Highland Park and Northbrook.
There was no shortage of teenagers waiting in line to register, interview and compare notes.
The city subsidizes many of the positions to help the employers create opportunities that otherwise the employers might not be able to afford. The program has been a mainstay in Evanston for 30 years. Funds for the subsidies come from the city’s annual budget and community development block grants.
The teens were given a list of employers attending in advance, giving them time to research or visit the businesses before meeting someone from the company in person.
Thompson shared her disappointment that only 100 of the nearly 700 registered applicants signed up in advance and attended the job readiness training and resumé workshops offered. Teens who registered in advance were allowed to skip the registration line and go directly to the tables of the employers they wanted to meet.
Larry and Jean Murphy, owners of YoFresh Yogurt Café on Chicago Avenue, are enthusiastic supporters of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. They’ve been married for 55 years, in business for eight years and have attended the fair for the past six. The café is the second career for both, as they’ve worked in helping and service professions previously.
Larry Murphy spoke about how grateful they are as a business to have survived the pandemic, which the couple attributes solely to the outpouring of “community support, catering opportunities and more.”
They enjoy working with the young people they meet and feel strongly about offering employment opportunities within the Evanston community. All of their future employees participate in a training program that includes performance-based incentives and guidance about how to interact with the public.
Jean Murphy said that the young people she works with often see her and her husband more as mentors than just employers. They do whatever they can to help their employees maximize both their potential and possibilities, Jean Murphy said.