We appreciate the City’s emphasis on workforce development. Workforce development is more than just getting a job for someone. As Neil Gambow of Elevate Evanston said at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, it is a process. People need a decent wage to support themselves and their families. But people need more than just a wage – they need work that will reward them with satisfaction and the opportunity for promotion.
Workforce development begins with the basics – training and education toward a career and a future.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed creating a new Office for Workforce Development and Innovation. At one time he proposed that this initiative would be led by Kevin Brown, who now heads the Youth and Young Adult Programs Division.
From Mr. Bobkiewicz’s latest memo to City Council, it is not clear that he still intends to use Mr. Brown’s talents for that position. The memo also refers to Elevate Evanston, a workforce initiative begun by Mayor Stephen Hagerty and now headed by Neil Gambow, a retired executive who has collaborated with Mr. Brown in helping youth find meaningful employment.
Mr. Bobkiewicz has also proposed using the STAR framework, a tool created by the U.S. Green Building Council.
We think each of these issues bears thorough examination and discussion by City Council. We believe Mr. Brown should remain head of Youth and Young Adult Programs and that his team should remain intact. If there is to be an Office of Workforce Development, it should be under the purview and of Mr. Brown and his team. He and his team have already created relationships with youth and with employers and organizations that help our at-risk youth. He and his team know the community and will likely be able to extend his reach to include organizations that help adults who are unemployed or under-employed or to develop such programs with the help of his capable staff.
Mr. Brown and his team have been very effective in reaching disengaged youth and in helping them find job and education opportunities and in curbing violence. We believe the team should not be broken up. Elevate Evanston could easily be folded into the work of Mr. Brown and his team. Mr. Brown and Mr. Gambow have demonstrated that they have common goals and can work well together.
There are some advantages to using the STAR framework, a significant one of which is that Evanston has already been certified as a 4-STAR community. Several weeks ago, however, when City staff proposed consolidating several boards, committees and commissions using a STAR framework, one alderman suggested that Council should discuss whether the STAR framework is one that should be applied in that context. We agree with that concern. The STAR framework has much to recommend it, but aldermen and the community need to feel comfortable that it is consistent with Evanston community values before City staff proceed with any reorganization. Council discussion and community input are needed.
All Evanston residents should be able to participate in the economic welfare of the community.