evanston-job-seekers,-businesses,-contractors,-could-connect-via-new-online-city-programs-–-evanston-roundtable

Evanston Job Seekers, Businesses, Contractors, Could Connect Via New Online City Programs – Evanston RoundTable

Can a new business directory under development by Evanston’s Economic Development Division someday connect with the city’s job seeker-oriented WorkforceCONNECT platform that debuted earlier this month? 

Members of the city’s Minority, Women, Disadvantaged, and Evanston Business Enterprise Development Committee, more often known as the M/W/D/EBE committee, briefly pondered that question Oct. 18 after hearing two presentations.

The answer is maybe – or at least not out of the question, according to Neal Reeves, an economic development specialist for the city who spoke to committee members about the business directory’s progress. 

“I think the initial idea of sharing information is certainly possible for collaboration,” Reeves told committee members during their October session at the Lorraine Morton Civic Center. “I’m pretty sure there’s some way to connect.”

But first, the directory needs to be completed and tested before going live. According to Reeves, the goal for that would be sometime in mid- to late November.

The directory began as a concept this past summer, and is envisioned as a tool city businesses can use, Reeves said. Staff have used Evanston’s existing business registration requirements as the directory’s basis, Reeves said.

“It’s a little more unique than a traditional directory, because those rely on two areas, name and category,” Reeves said.

A ‘more modern’ search

“The idea here is to make the search a little more modern, like Google. If they have a unique product, something unique to them, you’ll be able to put that into the search and you’ll find the businesses that have that product. Or if you’re searching, say, for black-owned businesses on Central (Street), you’ll be able to find them with this directory.”

Nathan Norman, the city’s workforce development coordinator. Credit: Bob Seidenberg / Evanston RoundTable

Earlier in the meeting, Nathan Norman, the workforce development program manager who handles Evanston’s local employment program, walked committee members through the kind of creative cooperation that could help businesses contracting with the city and Evanston residents looking for jobs, as well as ensure contractors hire the number of Evanston residents required by city ordinance.

A 2014 city ordinance requires city-funded construction projects with more than $25,000 in contracts to hire at least one Evanston resident.

Additionally, Evanston residents have to complete at least 15% of all work on the site, unless the project is granted a waiver. The ordinance also requires the city to award a minimum of 25% of all its contracts to minority-, women- or Evanston-owned businesses.

Evanston Animal Shelter architectural drawing Credit: Submitted

Norman’s presentation highlighted how one company – CCC Holdings, general contractor for the new Evanston animal shelter – worked with city staff to create a company program that is now training, and paying, an Evanston resident to eventually become a construction administrator. 

CCC representative Randy Klein said he wanted the attitude toward Evanston’s local employment mandates to change “from having to just meet requirements to making this a win-win-win, not just for us, not just for the city, but a win for whoever we brought on board.”

He and Norman worked together and found likely local hires for the contractor. Two weeks prior to the meeting, Klein chose one from a group he described as impressive. The new hire, who is now on the job, will work with CCC Holdings for nine months, for a $50,000 salary and benefits.

After the term ends, the man can join the company, or take his new skills “out into the world,” Klein said. He will have been trained to become an assistant construction superintendent and conceivably a construction superintendent. Such jobs command salaries of between $65,000 and close to $100,000, Klein said.

City of Evanston WORKFORCE CONNECT

While Reeves’ team works to complete the business directory, Norman’s division developed Evanston WorkforceCONNECT, a platform established with goals similar to the CCC Holdings program: “.. connecting Evanston community members seeking employment with local employers interested in hiring local talent,” according to an Oct. 12 press release.

The free platform allows searches for people by profile and background, and lets users connect with groups based on the user’s role, job sector of interest, and/or Evanston workforce program. The platform also allows users to schedule and attend virtual or in-person meetings and training sessions. According to the press release, it also includes a social feed and a job board, along with other services.

Norman, who left the committee session before Reeves began his presentation, could not be reached for comment about the possibility of connecting the new platform with the business directory.

For more information on the WorkforceCONNECT platform, visit the Evanston Workforce Development webpage on the city’s site, and fill out the career opportunities form.

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