Kansas City lags far behind cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles that have robust summer youth employment programs employing thousands of young people.
But the mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Commission is trying to change that with a push for 250 businesses to hire 2,500 teenagers and young adults this summer.
“The whole objective was to get all people to rally around the whole issue of youth work experience,” Full Employment Council president Clyde McQueen told The Star’s editorial board on Wednesday.
McQueen said cities with successful summer jobs programs typically have a federation or commission of business leaders championing that cause. So that’s the mission of Kansas City’s Summer Youth Employment Commission, which consists of civic leaders and representatives of some of the area’s biggest employers.
Mayor Sly James appointed the group in November 2014, and members had some success last summer finding jobs for young people in multiple city departments and some businesses. With help from a $4 million state grant, McQueen said, the commission helped place about 1,500 youths in jobs last summer.
Some of those employees, especially those ages 18 to 23, went on to find full-time employment in automotive, banking, manufacturing and other sectors.
But this summer the commission hopes to ramp up with many more private and nonprofit businesses offering young people a chance. The jobs would be aimed at youths living within the city limits of Kansas City, but the employment opportunities can be outside the city.
“Statistics indicate the main reason a lot of young people don’t get hired is because of a lack of work experience,” McQueen said. “But the key is getting that opportunity.”
Companies are asked to hire one young person, or more, for a 20- to 40-hour-per-week internship. If they don’t have jobs to offer, they can provide $3,000 to sponsor a teen for an eight-week summer internship at a local nonprofit.
More information, for both employers and potential employees, is at www.kcmo.gov/hirekcyouth. A job fair will be held from 9 a.m. to noon April 16 to connect young people with potential employers. Preregistration is required at https://hirekcyouthfair.eventbrite.com.