Hire KC Youth program steps into higher gear with grant help

Hire KC Youth program gets a boost

Recent hires in the Hire KC Youth summer jobs program tell of the experiences they hope to get that will help launch their future careers.
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Recent hires in the Hire KC Youth summer jobs program tell of the experiences they hope to get that will help launch their future careers.

For the sake of earnest job hopefuls like Breauna Roberson and Raihannah Shuaib, the Hire KC Youth program wants to make summer hiring as simple as possible for area employers.

Roberson, 18, a graduate of University Academy charter school, wants precollege experience in office management to fortify her plans to open a physical therapy clinic someday.

Shuaib, 23, just graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a degree in computer science and wants that elusive work experience to get a start with the Cerners and Garmins of the world.

A $55,000 grant from Bank of America, presented Tuesday, should encourage more employers to give more youths those kinds of chances.

The funds will allow the KC Social Innovation Center to take care of a lot of the management of summer intern staffs for potential employers, providing support such as coaching and credentialing.

“We’re trying to create more opportunities … and we need layers of funding,” said KC Social Innovation Center executive director Kari Keefe.

The innovation center, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said, is offering employers “a turn-key operation” when they join in Hire KC Youth.

James spoke at Connecting for Good, a nonprofit connecting people to computers and social networks. The nonprofit is hiring Roberson to work in its office and Shuaib to work as a computer tutor with clients.

This year, James turned the program over to KC Social Innovation Center to help take it beyond just city hiring, but to instead get private employers as well as public employers throughout the city to put youths to work.

Some 30,000 young people between 16 and 24 are not working or in school, James said.

“If we can give jobs and employment and something gainful for all of those kids to do, I guarantee you our violence rate will go down,” James said.

“The worst thing that can happen to many of us is to lose our job,” he said. “How about if you never had one, and it doesn’t look like you’re going to get one?”

So far, the program that last year put 82 youths in city jobs and internships so far this year has placed 317 youths with employers in the citywide expansion, Keefe said.

The job at Connecting for Good eases Shuaib’s frustration and sets her up for better opportunities ahead, she said.

“It was frustrating,” she said, “applying for positions I felt like I would be qualified for and getting turned down. … This (Hire KC Youth) is a benefit, not just for high school graduates but for college graduates like myself.”

Roberson followed a friend’s advice to check out the Hire KC Youth job fair in April.

“I was shocked at all the opportunities,” she said.

She’ll be off to the University of Missouri in the fall, she said, but now, as she works in the office at Connecting for Good, she thinks of the office she hopes to manage on her own, and says, “I can see myself.”