YJC was founded in 1983 by Ann Jennett to help low-income youth in Evanston find work, primarily short-term or seasonal. Over the years, the agency has expanded significantly, both programmatically and geographically, to meet the needs of youth and young adults throughout Chicagoland. Today, YJC prepares youth ages 14-25 for success in the workplace by providing one-on-one career advising, work-readiness training, job placement, and employment support in partnership with employers and fellow youth-serving agencies, helping clients step onto the path to a lifelong career.

Executive Director Karen Tollenaar Demorest said, “We’re here to celebrate the successes of the young people who have come through our doors in the past 35 years. Since Ann Jennett founded this agency in 1983, YJC staff have helped young people recognize their strengths and build upon the incredible potential that already existed within every one of them.”

Today, YJC serves over 2,200 youth per year across Evanston, Chicago, and Cook County through its job preparation and placement programs. YJC’s support is not just about job placement and a paycheck. Our great staff serves as mentors to our young clients. For many, YJC’s support leads to an increased sense of self-worth, a way to contribute to the community and economy, and the ability to take on challenges that result in continued learning and personal growth.

Every young person deserves the chance to get the skills they need so they can get on the path to success recognizes that the difficult work of addressing equity means that we need to meet all clients where they’re at. As in life, not everyone starts at the same place. While some clients have experienced little or no barriers to success, others have experienced significant hardships making their journey on the path to success much more difficult.

By providing personalized services and support we aim to help every client successfully achieve the same thing, employment in a job with career advancement potential, regardless of where they started. YJC’s focus on the issue of equity isn’t just external though. We realize that to truly be an agency that advocates for equity for all then we must live what we teach.

YJC diligently strives to grow programs for clients in need. Therefore, YJC has partnered with the Gary Comer Youth Center to bring work readiness programs to their walk-in clients and clients in their culinary program. YJC works with hospitability partners to support their hiring needs through this initiative. Also, YJC serves both In-school youth (ISY) ages 14 to 18 and Out of School Youth (OSY) up to age 25 through its programming. YJC has career advisors placed in six Chicago area High Schools to prepare youth for the workforce. Such initiatives include, work readiness, resume development, interview prep, career pathway direction, apprenticeship and on-the-job training alternatives for seniors. ISY programs aim to provide effective postsecondary planning to ensure a successful transition at graduation and successfully connect youth to employment and career opportunities. The OSY programs work to achieve lasting and successful placements in jobs for youth served, with opportunities for advancement.

YJC’s high school program is one of the few in the Chicago area working with students on postsecondary plans toward paths other than college. The greatest impact will be an increased number of graduates who successfully transition directly into work or training programs, thereby reducing the number of unemployed youth.

In-School Youth Programs

  • YJC@
    YJC has sites at Gage Park H.S., Wells Community Academy, Sullivan H.S., & Evanston Township H.S. YJC staff is permanently embedded in the schools, serving on the postsecondary planning team & working closely with teachers & school leaders to provide: Advising on job searches, resumes, interviewing techniques, & job applications In-school seminar classes to help students identify areas of interest, develop skills, & make plans for paths after graduation. After school workshops & hiring events
  • Summer Corps and Gap This Way Ahead Program
    A positive first job is shown to lead to increased wages & higher likelihood of employment later in life. For youth aged 14-18, we offer paid work experiences coupled with job-readiness training & personalized support. Work experiences include: Interns with Gap, Old Navy, & Banana Republic stores. Tutors of rising Kindergartners. Teachers assistants for elementary & middle school students. Camp counselors. Internships with banks, corporations, & other employers.

Out-of-School Youth Programs

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA_
    Funded through the Chicago- Cook Workforce Partnership, WIOA helps job seekers between the ages of 18-24 who face significant barriers gain the support, skills, & education necessary to obtain & retain employment. Qualified candidates may receive up to two years of funding for training, attending approved colleges & technical programs, or entering jobs with ongoing support.
  • Career Pathways
    The Career Pathways program combines skills-specific training, for instance in automotive maintenance, with subsidized internships & relevant credentialing. The goal is permanent employment in a career-track job with advancement opportunities. Career Pathways is specifically for youth ages 18-25.
  • Lasting Impact Initiative
    This two-year program is designed to help young adults achieve success in an entry- level job in retail or customer service & continue to plan for future career advancement. YJC works closely with employer partners to address challenges & develop a supportive environment on the job. Participants also complete a series of online applications, called playlists, on topics such as finding your strengths, telling your story, & financial planning.

In partnership with local employers, the Youth Job Center (YJC) prepares youth for success in the workplace through a wide variety of employment related services. YJC facilitates relationships between youth and employers, building success through trust, dialogue, and continuous learning.

Employer Partner Services

  • Working with YJC is easy
  • There is no charge for employers or clients
  • Comprehensive staffing services
  • Prescreened, qualified applicants.
  • Customized training programs
  • Ongoing retention support
  • Bi-annual job fairs

Paid Work Experience

Youth Job Center offers paid internships and training opportunities for youth and young adults throughout Chicagoland. Employer partners may work with YJC Clients on a trial basis for up to 200 hours before deciding on permanent hire.

Employer partnership is a key aspect of YJC services. YJC works closely with partners to understand their specific needs and make strong matches between employers and job-seekers. In partnership with local employers, the Youth Job Center (YJC) prepares youth for success in the workplace through a wide variety of employment related services. YJC facilitates relationships between youth and employers, building success through trust, dialogue, and continuous learning. For more information about YJC Services, please visit www.youthjobcenter.org or call (847) 864-5627.