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Starbucks, Taco Bell, others form youth employment coalition

Starbucks, Taco Bell, others form youth employment coalition

100,000 Opportunities Initiative aims to train, hire more than 100,000 teens, young adults  

More than a dozen employers, led by Starbucks Corp., will form a coalition to train or hire more than 100,000 teens and young adults who face systemic barriers to jobs and education, participants in the coalition said Monday.

Starbucks, Taco Bell and Potbelly Corp., as well as the foodservice operator HMS Host, have joined several other employers in the coalition, called the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

The employers, which represent industries like retail, airlines and hotels, have committed to hiring and training at least 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds — or “Opportunity Youth” — through apprenticeships, internships, training programs and jobs.

“By using our scale to create pathways to affordable education and meaningful employment for these young men and women, we’re strengthening both our workforce and our economy,” Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks and cofounder of the Schultz Family Foundation, said in a statement. “As business leaders, I believe we have a critical role to play in hiring more Opportunity Youth and offering these young people excellent training and the chance to dream big and reach their aspirations.”

The coalition said that 5.6 million youth between ages 16 and 24 are out of school and not working. The employers see this group as a source to fill the 3.5 million jobs in the US that are open and don’t require a four-year degree.

Unemployment among young people, particularly African Americans and other minorities, remains high, even as the economy has improved. Overall teenage unemployment was 18.1 percent in June, according to federal data. But among African American teens, unemployment was 31.5 percent.

Overall unemployment is lower among young adults ages 20 to 24, but it remains 9.9 percent. The overall unemployment rate is currently 5.3 percent.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative includes some of the biggest private employers in the country, such as Walmart, Walgreens, Target,, Microsoft, Macy’s, Lyft, JPMorgan Chase, JCPenney, Hilton Worldwide, CVS Health, Cintas and Alaska Airlines, in addition to the participating restaurant companies.

The companies generally employ many young people, making them key participants in the initiative.

The Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions will act as an intermediary for the coalition. The Institute’s Opportunity Youth Investment Fund supports efforts focused on teens and young adults in 21 communities around the country.

The employers in the initiatives will establish strategies to recruit, train and retain young workers. It will include helping young workers by creating internships and apprenticeships, and providing training needed to help teens and young adults establish careers.

Nearly 80 percent of Starbucks’ workforce is comprised of Millennials. The company has committed to hiring at least 10,000 Opportunity Youth over the next three years. Those workers would then gain access to Starbucks’ slate of benefits, including tuition reimbursement for those who earn an online bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University.

Taco Bell, meanwhile, has employed more than 1 million teens since the company’s founding in 1962. Between now and 2022, the company expects to create more than 50,000 new jobs, of which one in four will be filled by teens. Taco Bell has established efforts such as the Career Online High School, which it launched to provide employees the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and career certificate. Employees also have access to a variety of online options to earn their GED or college degrees.

Opportunity Fair and Forum

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“As a company that gives many young Americans their very first job, Taco Bell proudly invests in developing the next generation of leaders through education, job and life skills, and a culture that promotes growth,” Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell Corp., said in a statement. “Taco Bell is a workplace where today’s driven youth can flourish. We empower our team members with practical skills that set them up for success on the job and beyond, and provide resources and encouragement to stay in school and earn a degree so they can follow their passion.”

The effort will kick off with an Opportunity Fair and Forum in Chicago on Aug. 13, where companies expect to train more than 2,000 youth and make 200 job offers on the spot. Overall, the group hopes to hire at least 1,000 young people in the Chicago area over the next 18 months.

“In America, your ZIP code should never determine your destiny,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a statement. “Breaking down barriers to employment for young people doesn’t just help the individual workers, it benefits entire communities and the economies at large.”

Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO, Starbucks Corp.

This is not the first time that Schultz and Starbucks have taken on efforts to build employment in low-income areas and among disadvantaged youth.

In 2011, the coffeehouse operator began working with OFN, a network of community development financial institutions that make loans in distressed areas, to form Create Jobs for USA, an effort to mobilize institutions and people to address high unemployment. The organization raises money to make loans to small businesses, developers and nonprofit institutions in these areas.

The Schultz Family Foundation and Starbucks were among several foundations that helped fund the 100,000 Opportunities initiative.

“The rules of engagement for philanthropy are changing,” Schultz said. “It’s not just about writing a check. Rather, our approach is focused on creating a coalition of like minds with local knowledge, expertise on the ground and the ability to scale the social impact of an initiative like this to create pathways of opportunity for the literally millions of young people who can benefit from this program.”

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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