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KC Scholars

Connecting Scholars to the Regional Workforce

KC Scholars Makes a Game-on Commitment to Connecting Scholars to the Regional Workforce

Intentional Focus and New Appointment Speaks to Commitment 

(Oct 12, 2020) – KC Scholars is reaching for their ultimate goal to connect their Scholars to regional workforce opportunities and that decisive game-on goal is 80% of Scholar graduates stay in the region to live and work. Dr. Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, President and CEO of KC Scholars, said, “We have over 4,000 scholars already embarking on their dream.  We want them to understand from their community and embrace that they can stay here to live, work and contribute”.

Why does that matter to Kansas City? It matters because Scholars who stay and prosper in Kansas City have a ripple effect on the local economy. Those with bachelor’s degrees earn approximately $800,000 more over a lifetime than those without – this is $6.4 trillion in increased lifetime earnings for Scholars. Further, bachelor’s degree earners spend approximately $278,000 more in the local economy over a lifetime – $2.4 trillion infused into our regional economy by Scholars. Finally, Scholars could fill at least 10% of the jobs identified as needing to be filled in high-demand sectors.

KC Scholars recently hired their inaugural Director of Workforce and Alumni Engagement, Sharmelle Winsett, a Hickman Mills graduate and native of Kansas City. This role, at this stage of organizational evolution, is pivotal and demonstrates KC Scholars’ commitment to its workforce goals.

The Director role will focus on connecting Scholars from the moment they come into the program – be it 9th grade or 11th grade or as a returning adult learner – to opportunities in our regional workforce. With her previous experience at the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute (BHLI), Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and as a business developer and owner, Winsett will be critical to achieving the goal that at least 80% of Scholar graduates stay in the Kansas City region to live and work and contribute.

The mission of KC Scholars is to increase postsecondary education attainment in the greater Kansas City area by providing fair and equitable opportunity for a college education for those that likely would not have otherwise attended or completed. KC Scholars is demonstrating impressive early impact on this goal, with near 100% of its Scholars enrolling in college and upper-90% continuing toward college completion. In the region, 66% of students enroll in college and nationally, underclass student persistence rates are in the 70% or 80%. On all metrics, KC Scholars are enrolling and succeeding in college at rates higher than for the region, state, and nation.

The ultimate contribution of KC Scholars will be to enrich the Kansas City workforce with home-grown, racially and ethnically diverse talent. As of May 2020, 60 Scholars had graduated with a credit-bearing credential or associate’s or bachelor’s degree, with anticipation of many hundreds more each year moving forward. By 2027, there will be at least 10,000 college-educated, racially and ethnically diverse KC Scholars ready for or already engaged in this region’s workforce pipeline.

Of over 4,000 current KC Scholars, 81% identify as individuals of color or multiracial. “KC Scholars expects a minimum of 10,000 Scholars by 2026. If current demographics of participants remain, this means 8,100 Scholars of color by 2026,” stated Dr. Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, President and CEO of KC Scholars.  “Our goal of 80% of Scholars graduates staying in the KC region to work and live connects to our mission, which is to provide fair and equitable access to and attainment of postsecondary education via financial and non-financial supports and advisement, particularly those historically underrepresented in college (and in career sectors), which includes low-and modest-income, 1st generation college goers, students of color and returning adults.  Without a doubt, KC Scholars matters to the individual Scholars and to our regional workforce.”  

Based on impact to date and career interests of Scholars, KC Scholars estimates that Scholars could fill at least 10% of the jobs in high-demand sectors identified by regional civic leaders. With KC Scholars scaling more rapidly than projected in the Business Plan, Scholars could potentially fill even more jobs. In the Architectural & Engineering sector, for instance, it is projected that 6,000 jobs will need to be filled in the next 10 years – based on indicated interest, 11.42% of these jobs could be filled by KC Scholars. In the Life Sciences sector, 17,000 jobs are projected to need to be filled in the next 10 years, 8.91% of which could potentially be filled by Scholars. KC Scholars has completed this analysis for all high-demand sectors.

“Talent is critical to the growth of our business and industry,” remarked Lesley Elwell, Talent Leader and Chief People Officer for J.E. Dunn, “and KC Scholars is helping to develop a diverse talent pool that will benefit the region.”

KC Scholars seeks to partner with employers and professionals in high-demand sectors. We aim to establish mentorships, job shadowing experiences, internships, career exploration and exposure opportunities, KC Scholars-focus days and events, career fairs, and sector-specific engagement with Scholars expressing an interest in the sector, and an opportunities and job-posting portal to explicitly access KC Scholars. As an example, KC Scholars is actively engaging with Hallmark, Evergy, and Entrepreneurship KC and with KC Global Design to host an essential skills workshop where 281 current high school and college Scholars will interact and explore careers and connections in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.

“KC Rising has partnered with KC Scholars since the start because the model is first-class, the scale is unmatched, and the supports fuel student success,” stated Sheri Gonzales, Vice President Civic Council and Director of KC Rising.  “The KC region will be better off for generations to come because KC Scholars has opened doors of opportunity to so many.”

We invite you to reach out to KC Scholars to connect your company or organization to the workforce mission and/or to support our Scholars by giving online at or sending a check to KC Scholars, 8080 Ward Parkway, Suite 402, Kansas City, MO 64114. 100% of donations go to scholarship support!

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