Northwestern University will invest $200,000 in Rebuilding Exchange, a local non-profit, to help recruit more Evanston residents into workforce training programs — expanding access to certification programs, career exposure and job placement services to more Evanston residents.
“The University’s investment in Rebuilding Exchange is one more demonstration of Northwestern’s ongoing commitment to create economic opportunities for minority-owned, woman-owned, and local Evanston businesses and residents,” said Luke Figora, Northwestern’s vice president for operations. “We are proud to partner with Rebuilding Exchange to ensure we reach our target that 35% of all construction jobs in the Ryan Field rebuilding project will go to minority- and women-owned businesses.”
Based in Evanston, Rebuilding Exchange is a nonprofit organization that reuses building material, reduces construction waste, and trains, supports and connects people seeking careers in the building trades.
“As councilmember for the Second Ward, where Rebuilding Exchange is located, I cannot express how thrilled I am to witness this partnership with Northwestern,” said councilmember Krissie Harris. “Workforce development and equity aren’t just buzzwords; they're the cornerstone of a vibrant, just and thriving community. This collaboration promises to go beyond conventional methods to create a blueprint for lifting our neighbors out of poverty and into stable, fulfilling careers.”
Rebuilding Exchange works to help ensure greater racial and gender diversity in the building trades workforce. In 2022, 90% of graduates of Rebuilding Exchange’s pre-apprenticeship program identified as people of color and 16% of graduates were women. Ninety-five percent of all program graduates are actively placed in apprenticeship programs for carpenters, laborers, sheet metal workers and pipefitters.
“We are honored to partner with Northwestern to help build a diverse, qualified and skilled talent pathway to meet the construction workforce needs of the new Ryan Field,” said Aina Gutierrez, executive director of Rebuilding Exchange. “We are ready to begin recruitment of Evanston residents into our pre-apprenticeship training program and are excited to expand our job readiness and placement opportunities to more Evanston residents.”
Northwestern’s rebuild of Ryan Field will be entirely privately funded through a transformative gift from the Patrick G. and Shirly W. Ryan Family — with no taxpayer financing and significant public benefit. During construction alone, the project is anticipated to generate more than $12 million in direct fees to the city of Evanston and more than $659.9 million in economic impact to Evanston while creating 2,923 jobs.
“My core aim is to ensure Evanston enterprises access local opportunities for growth with the instrumental support of institutions like Northwestern,” said councilmember Bobby Burns, who chairs the Minority, Women, Disadvantage and Evanston Business Enterprises Committee. “This partnership is a testament to this very mission.
“Upon Northwestern’s new stadium announcement, I proposed meeting the general contractor post-selection for regular sessions that facilitated the engagement of local contractors,” Burns said. “Northwestern embraced this idea wholeheartedly, and we’re in an optimal position to connect local businesses with opportunities at Northwestern for years to come.”
When Northwestern football returns home for its first home game of the season on Sept. 9, Rebuilding Exchange will be recognized as part of the annual Community Day festivities at Ryan Field.
“This collaboration is not just a step, but a leap forward in revolutionizing workforce development in Evanston,” said Dave Davis, Northwestern’s senior executive director of Neighborhood and Community Relations. “Together, we are committed to not only meeting our ambitious hiring goals, but also creating a model for how construction projects can be a catalyst for change. This partnership is a testament to the potential that lies in collaboration, innovation, and shared vision.”