Starbucks leads initiative to hire 100,000 young minority American workers

Starbucks is spearheading a coalition of 17 US-based companies in an initiative launched Monday, July 13, to hire 100,000 young Americans facing systemic barriers to jobs and education.

The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, looks to boost circumstances for 5.5 million Americans between the ages of 16 to 24, who are not in school or unemployed. The group is referred to as “disconnected youth” by economists and demographers.

The number of disconnected youths is higher among minorities. Data from the Social Science Research Council reveals that 22 percent of blacks, 16 percent of Latinos, 11 percent of whites, 8 percent of Asians and one in every five young Native Americans fall into this category.

In the next three years, the coalition aims to hire 100,000 young minority workers.

“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 economy,” Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks and cofounder of the Schultz Family Foundation, said in a statement.

Schultz has pledged to hire 10,000 workers by 2018.

The Starbucks CEO is joined by executives from Alaska Airlines, Cintas, CVS Health, Hilton Worldwide, HMSHost, JCPenney, JPMorgan Chase, Lyft, Macy’s Microsoft, Porch.com, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens and Walmart in pushing to hire young people for apprenticeships, internships and part-time or full-time jobs.

“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,” Schultz said.

Even with the more than one dozen companies that have agreed to partake in the initiative, the coalition is looking for additional participants.

“What we’ve learned over these last many years is that rules of philanthropy, the rules of engagement have radically changed,” Schultz told USA Today. “You really have to build a coalition of like-minded organizations and people who have the kind of experience and skill base and local knowledge to tackle a problem as complex as this.”

On Aug. 13, the coalition will hold a job fair in Chicago with a goal of hiring 1,000 individuals – including 200 on-the-spot hires – from those who attend the event. Schultz said the fair will be the first of what expects to be many across the US.

Approximately 2,000 youth are anticipated to attend the Chicago fair, which will be hosted by Grammy and Academy-award winning artist Common.

“I believe in the talent that lies within our young people, and I know that when we give them a real chance, they will achieve and soar,” Common said in a statement.

The plight of the young and poor has modestly improved since 2010, which was the peak year for disconnected youth in the past decade. Still, one in every seven young people neither attend school nor have a job, a number that closely resembles the population of Minnesota.

Martin Drell, head of the infant, child and adolescent psychiatry division at Louisana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, told CNBC that the post-recession unease puts a severe strain on the psyche of low-income Americans.

“There were always people who never made the American Dream, but what is happening now is the American Dream is getting more difficult to fathom for young people at the bottom layers of socioeconomic status,” Drell said.

The announcement of the pledge to improve circumstances for disconnected youth has received praise from Young Invincibles, a non-profit organization focused on empowering young Americans.

“We’re glad to see some of our nation’s top employers commit to doing their part to solve chronically high young adult unemployment, because millennial unemployment costs [$25 billion] per year,” said Young Invincibles spokesperson Sarah Lovenheim.

However, The Guardian reported that concerns are likely to be raised that most of the jobs will probably offer low wages. For instance, although Starbucks pays its employees more than the minimum wage, its 1.3 million baristas still have trouble making ends meet.

“We have also seen our wages fall by 10 [percent] over the past 10 years, compared to by 4 percent for workers generally,” Lovenheim said. “While it’s great to see this kind of leadership from the private sector, lawmakers also have a responsibility to make sure that young people can learn the skills that will set them up for careers and we hope that they act swiftly to put a jobs agenda in place.” (With reports from CNBC, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today)

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