Why Opportunity Youth is the Focus of Starbucks 5th Annual Global Month of Service

April is a month when Starbucks invites partners (employees) and customers to join together in community service projects around the world. As Starbucks fifth annual Global Month of Service begins, chief community officer Blair Taylor shares the following essay on why service is an important part of Starbucks commitment to encouraging greater understanding and compassion toward the issues impacting young people in our communities.

Opportunity Youth. The name given to young people ages 16-24 who are not in school nor employed. The fact that there are 300 million Opportunity Youth around the world growing up without access to a real future makes this one of the biggest issues of our time.

Let’s think about it.

If this overwhelming number of young people are dropping out of high school, not going to college, and not working, economic growth in countries across the globe will be compromised … well into the future. Businesses, including Starbucks, can’t survive this way. We cannot drive performance sustainably if this group of young people is not engaged. They represent our future workforce as well as our future customers.

In March 2015, Howard Schultz announced Starbucks commitment to hire 10,000 Opportunity Youth over the next three years. We are also repurposing our Starbucks Foundation grants to specifically target this same Opportunity Youth population. And, we have formed a powerful collaboration with our supply chain called LeadersUp, which focuses on hiring Opportunity Youth as well. These are just a few of the initial steps we are taking to address the challenge of disengaged young people and to connect them with meaningful employment opportunities in our economy. And through benefits like the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, we can now also provide these new partners with an unprecedented opportunity to enroll in college and finish their degree at Arizona State Online for free, whether they choose to build a rewarding career with Starbucks or if their aspirations take them on a different journey. That’s why we’ve also committed to having 25,000 partners graduate through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan by the year 2025.

I must stress that this is not about charity; this is about hiring fantastic, qualified candidates, who through no fault of their own, have not been afforded opportunities to get ahead. Despite their circumstances, they are resilient and motivated to succeed. Now, more than ever before, we need the creativity and fortitude of business coming together with communities to create new pathways to meaningful employment opportunities for young people. This will also help Starbucks achieve our growth aspirations and drive our business forward.

For all of us, the journey begins with empathy

As our Partner Open Forum efforts have revealed over the past months, the way to increase our own understanding of a person from a different background is to listen and directly engage. Interpersonal exchanges—the kind that foster empathy--are the first step in our journey toward enhanced understanding. And there may be no greater mechanism for deeply increasing our understanding of others than community service.

Today, April 1, Starbucks begins our fifth annual Global Month of Service (GMOS). April is a month when we invite partners (employees) and customers to join together in community service projects around the world. This year, to further leverage the investments of the Starbucks Foundation and our hiring of Opportunity Youth, we will intentionally focus our GMOS efforts on collaborations with non-profit organizations that help Opportunity Youth get the skills and training they need to secure jobs. Partners will work with these non-profits to organize career fairs, mock interview and resume review sessions or even restoration projects for local schools or community centers that support youth. For example, tomorrow, over 100 Starbucks partners in Philadelphia will volunteer with City Year and YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School to share career building skills with over 300 opportunity youth who are looking to explore careers in retail and customer service. Many will also have the opportunity to interview for store positions with Starbucks.

Our work in Philadelphia is just one of hundreds of community service projects Starbucks partners are leading with non-profit organizations in communities around the world. This year, we expect to reach more than 25,000 Opportunity Youth during Global Month of Service. It’s an important step in Starbucks ongoing commitment to use our scale to encourage greater understanding, empathy and compassion toward one another. And what better way to do so, than by volunteering your time to help a young person connect with opportunities in their community? I hope you will join us. (Click here to participate in a community service project)

Thank you Starbucks partners and customers for coming together this month to pay it forward and do more for our young people and our collective future.

By Blair Taylor, Starbucks chief community officer

thumbnail for Photo essay: Caps off to the class of 2024

Photo essay: Caps off to the class of 2024