Career exploration isn’t easy, which is why Nathan Norman, Workforce Development Coordinator at the City of Evanston, is an advocate for residents looking for new opportunities.
“We want to create meaningful learning opportunities,” he said. “We want to connect local employers with Evanston residents looking to enter the job market.”
As COVID-19 created unexpected and often unfortunate work circumstances – many businesses closed, outposts – hundreds of city residents needed career assistance. The City of Evanston created the position of Workforce Development Coordinator in December 2021, appointing Norman to the position.
“I started out as a first responder to youth and young adults in the town of Evanston. And then from there, I became an outreach supervisor. Then I started managing the Mayor’s Youth Summer Jobs Program,” said Norman, who has worked for the city since 2012.
United States Bureau of Labor statistics from July 2022 show that the national unemployment rate for teens ages 16-19 is around 12%, the highest of any age group. “We strive to engage these people and others to provide them with meaningful and sustainable career options,” Norman said.
Norman has partnered with several community organizations on programs that help individuals develop marketable skills and find sustainable career options:
Norman is in collaboration with the iKit Summer Internship Program, which gives high school graduates a chance to explore various careers. It has also partnered with the YWCA and is developing a new program, Emerge, with Mather Place in Evanston. The goal of Emerge, which has yet to launch, is to create a pipeline to careers in healthcare and senior living.
Another new program is the ASPIRE Evanston Community Health Workforce Development Program, as part of a strategic partnership with NorthShore University HealthSystem. ASPIRE seeks to attract more city residents into the health care field and then offer them a chance to grow their careers into higher level positions within the industry.
“A person can start as a pharmacy technician or start in patient transportation, and they might see other opportunities within NorthShore that interest them and might sign up to become a nurse,” Norman said.
Another opportunity is the Evanston Work Ethics Program. The program, created by Hecky Powell, provides career exploration, job search preparation, mentorships and summer internships for students at Evanston Township High School.
This summer, approximately 30 people participated in the ASPIRE and iKit programs, while 15 teenagers participated in the Evanston Work Ethic program.
Although young people have been hit hard by the pandemic, Norman is helping anyone 18 and older considered unemployed or “underemployed”, as well as those who have been incarcerated or in juvenile detention.
“We’ve created opportunities for people who are going the non-traditional route, for people who are looking to re-enter the workforce, for people who haven’t got it all figured out,” he said.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Evanston’s unemployment rate in July 2022 was 4.3%, just below the statewide figure of 4.4%. but higher than the national average of 3.5%.
As the fall nears, Norman said he wants to expand workforce development efforts further. “We hope to create opportunities for individuals looking for opportunities, for those looking to upscale,” he said. “We also want to engage reintegrating citizens and provide them with holistic support and opportunities.”
Norman said he finds the relationships he builds to be the most rewarding part of his job. “It is rewarding to be part of a program that seeks to identify and reduce barriers to employment,” he said.
He wants people to be successful, satisfied and prepared for the job market.
“Residents know that I am the person who can put them in touch with the right resources. I am a catalyst. I am a bridge builder,” he said. “I connected members of our community with resources they didn’t even know existed. »
Norman said he hopes Evanston residents are aware that he is available and happy to help those seeking career opportunities.
“I want people to know that I am devoted to them. I am dedicated to advancing the public interest. I signed up to advance the public interest. That’s what I come to work for…every day,” he said.
Visit the City of Evanston website for more information on Workforce Development or residents can call 311 and ask for Nathan Norman.