The news came a bit like an Oprah moment, 17-year-old Jordan McDonald said.
She was one of a couple dozen culinary students cooking the breakfast Wednesday morning that meant to lure in the Kansas City business world to hear the city pitch its Hire KC Youth summer jobs campaign.
The city hopes to see 2,000 teenagers either employed or in internships this summer. To cap off the campaign’s breakfast kickoff, restaurateur Kevin Timmons of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association told the audience he had an announcement.
McDonald thought she knew what was coming. She figured he was going to say that she and the other students in the Kansas City Public Schools’ Manual Career and Technical Center culinary arts program would get a crack to compete for some restaurant jobs.
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But no. Timmons said they all will have jobs. All 49 of them who want one.
“Every single one of you,” Timmons said.
They didn’t burst out screaming, but the two dozen students in white chef’s clothes in the room broke out stunned grins and joined the applause.
“That was a huge surprise,” McDonald said. “This is awesome.”
She sees herself mastering the art of pastries and someday before too long opening her own bakery. And this is going to help get her started, she said.
“They’re opening doors for us,” she said.
Mayor Sly James had started the program in-house, hiring close to 100 youths every summer to work in city departments, but this summer the city wants to take the effort outside city departments.
“This is good for everyone involved; this is good for the city” he said to the audience of local business leaders. “They,” he said, meaning the students around the room and others across the city, “are our work force.”
The teens are eager to work, said Kari Keefe, executive director of the KC Social Innovation Center. She recalled the some 1,500 who filled up a job fair at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center last year, “dressed in their Sunday best,” in pursuit of the limited jobs the city had a year ago.
“We’re looking for partners,” she said.
What businesses are being ask to join “is not a program,” said Clyde McQueen, CEO of the Full Employment Council, but rather “an economic development strategy for our region. This is a system realignment.”
Anyone interested in offering summer jobs or internships can go to www.hirekcyouth.org.
The businesses that hire youth should expect their own rewards, Timmons told the students.
“You may think this is a lucky day for you,” he said. “But it’s a lucky day for us.”