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December 11, 2018

11/28/2018 2:06:00 PM
Youth and Young Adult Programs On Hold - for Now
By Mary Helt Gavin

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has pulled back somewhat from his October proposal to break up the Youth and Young Adult Programs team and reorganize the division.

Initially, Mr. Bobkiewicz had proposed as a budgetary item replacing Kevin Brown, who heads the team and the Youth and Young Adult Programs division, with Pastor Kenneth Cherry, manager of Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Mr. Brown, under the proposal, would take a newly created position, Workforce Development Manager.

Pushback from the community and the City Council resulted in the proposal’s being removed from the budget.

Mr. Bobkiewicz said workforce development – primarily geared to adults over 25 years of age who are unemployed or underemployed – remains an area of interest and concern to the City.

In a Nov. 19 email to Mr. Brown and his team and to Pastor Cherry, Mr. Bobkiewicz wrote that at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting he had provided Council members an update on workforce development and the goals of an Office of Workforce Development and Innovation – the office which, in October, he had proposed Mr. Brown to head.

The email also said, “This is important work, and I believe the City must expend additional focus of time and resources on these issues. 

“As I have talked with staff and heard comments from the community over the past few weeks about the proposal to move Community Services Manager Kevin Brown into a new role leading this effort, I have become convinced that the timing of the move is premature. … No changes will be made in the Youth and Young Adult Division prior to June 1, 2019.”

In an interview with the RoundTable, Mr. Brown said 80% of the Youth and Young Adult programs budget goes toward workforce development for those ages 14-26, much of that devoted to the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

He added, though that there are already channels open to expand to older Evanstonians who are unemployed or underemployed.

“When we work with a family, we may discover a mother, father, uncle or aunt needs a job. We connect them with the National Able Network [based in the Main Library]. They have the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership grant. They have all supportive resources [such as] for childcare, for transportation – programs for [those who are] out of work, underemployed. They have training programs for computer languages or creating apps for phones. They have money for people who want to get a commercial driver’s license. We help counsel those adults … We could do more if we had dedicated resources for workforce development,” Mr. Brown said

Mr. Bobkiewicz said Deputy City Manager Kimberly Richardson is reviewing “all the social service functions of the City.”

Mr. Bobkiewicz said Ms. Richardson’s   initial analysis has identified opportunities for improved linkages among services and ways to reorganize staff in some City departments to improve delivery of those services. He suggested waiting until Ms. Richardson has concluded her analysis before the City would implement changes related to workforce development.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard will continue to assess opportunities to expand workforce development efforts as part of the larger social services review, Mr. Bobkiewicz said.


Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2018
Comment by: Luke Adams

From the reporting I've read it appears to me that Mr. Bobkiewicz made the proposal to make significant proposed changes without discussing it at all with the stake holders who are running the program(s), including Mr. Brown. While I understand the City Manager has a tough job with hard requirements to meet, making such large changes without talking it through with those who are doing the work seems unwise. He hopefully was unaware of the efficacy of the program as it is before he proposed such changes and he might have taken this informative step to avoid proposing changes that might damage a successful program.

We (white people at-large) need to make it our own personal priority to repair the damage that racism has done to our fellow citizens. Taking the time to talk to the stake holders in such a program demonstrates the priority of doing that. While having made the proposed changes without discussion with the stake holders demonstrates an unwillingness to so, or at best it demonstrates a lack of awareness. Either issue should be addressed professionally with our City Manager.

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