The move underscores Starbucks’ frequent use of its brand power to address social issues dear to Schultz’s heart.
A coalition of U.S. companies roped together by Starbucks has vowed to hire or train 100,000 at-risk youth within the next three years, the coffee giant’s latest foray into the realm of social policy.
The coalition includes other Northwest companies, such as Alaska Airlines, Microsoft and the startup Porch.com, as well as giants Hilton, CVS Health and Wal-Mart.
According to Starbucks spokeswoman Linda Mills, the group is the fruit of CEO Howard Schultz’s strong relationships with “like-minded CEOs.” It came about after a series of “in-person meetings, phone conversations and email correspondence over the past few months,” she said.
The companies’ announcement coincided with a Monday New York Times Op-Ed penned by Schultz and his wife, Sheri, in which the couple said their family foundation pledged $30 million to help the 5.6 million U.S. youngsters neither employed nor at school enter the workforce and achieve self-sufficiency.
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“While some have lost hope in this population, blaming them and their families for creating their own problems, we believe these young people represent a significant untapped resource of productivity and talent.”
The move underscores Starbucks’ frequent use of its brand power to seek to address social issues dear to Schultz’s heart.
Experts say shareholders tolerate it because Starbucks has been performing well — and also because some of these initiatives strengthen its brand and its connection with its legions of baristas, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Some initiatives — such as a focus on returning veterans — have been lauded by many. Others result in unwanted controversy: a bid to have baristas prompt discussions about race in cafes by writing “race together” in cups was widely ridiculed.
The plight of disadvantaged youth is not new to Schultz or Starbucks: The company and the Schultz Family Foundation launched a nationwide barista training program for at-risk youth last September, and Starbucks had announced earlier this year that it would hire 10,000 such youngsters by 2018.
The launch of the coalition doesn’t mean, however, that Starbucks is increasing that hiring commitment.
The coalition’s companies aim to offer apprenticeships, internships, training and jobs. It will hold a forum in Chicago, where they expect to train 2,000 people and hire at least 200 on the spot; they expect to create around 1,000 jobs in that city over the next year and a half.
Seattle-based home-improvement startup Porch.com, the only startup to join the long list of companies, says it will use its extensive network of home professionals to connect at-risk young people with jobs.
Porch didn’t make a commitment to hire a specific number of employees, though CEO Matt Ehrlichman said the company will likely hire the youths into sales, account management and support roles. Porch will also work to set up young people who have trade skills into jobs or apprenticeships with the professionals that contract with Porch’s site.