Three Ways Starbucks Helps Veterans Transition from Military to Civilian Careers

An estimated one million men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces will shift from military to civilian life over the next five years. What’s next for them?

James Logan was looking for his first civilian job in almost two decades. With 17 years of military experience, Logan set out to find a position that leveraged all he had learned while serving in the U.S. Army. He was encouraged about his job prospects after receiving an invitation to interview for the Heroes Corporate Fellowship Academy (HCFA).

“My priorities and vision for my life have changed,” said Logan. “After learning about the fellowship, I was certain that it would be a great first step in landing my new career.”

The HCFA is just one of the fellowships Starbucks supports to help active duty service members bridge the gap between their military and civilian careers. The fellowship is a program managed by Camo2Commerce, an organization that provides career development and jobs for active duty service members transitioning out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. The goal of the fellowship academy is to help service members build their civilian network and add civilian work experience to their resumes.

For 12 weeks, HCFA fellows train and network with an assigned company three days per week and spend one day per week in a business class at City University of Seattle. Fifteen Pacific Northwest employers, including Starbucks, serve as partner companies.

“We seek large well-known companies that are staunch supporters of military hiring initiatives,” said Rob Comer, Training and Education Fellowship and Corporate Fellowship Program Manager for Camo2Commerce. “Starbucks participation means a lot to our service members.”

Logan is an advocate for the fellowship and says he finds active duty military members require more than education to be ready to join the civilian workforce.

“Working with the partner companies exposes you to what’s truly necessary to be successful when transitioning from the military to the civilian world,” said Logan. “It’s an experience that a book or a class cannot teach you.”

Partnering with the U.S. Navy Supply Corps

Similar to Logan, Derek Hotchkiss had gained significant military experience after serving in the U.S. Navy for 17 years. He learned about the Training with Industry (TWI) fellowship in 2012, when Starbucks announced its participation in the program through a partnership with the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. TWI provides an opportunity for U.S. Navy Supply Chain officers to spend 12 months analyzing the operations of a world-class human resources and supply chain management company.

“The program is highly publicized in the Navy community,” said Hotchkiss. “It’s quite an honor to be selected as a representative of the Navy and work with one of the participating companies.”

Hotchkiss applied for the fellowship last year, as the end of his military career was in sight. He presented his skills and experience in front of a U.S. Navy Supply Corps board of directors before being confirmed as the third Starbucks fellow.

“It was perfect timing with Starbucks Veterans Hiring Commitment just underway at the time,” said Hotchkiss. “I had exposure to both Starbucks Supply Chain organization as well as the initiatives put in place to hire and provide resources for veterans and military spouses.”

During his year with Starbucks, Hotchkiss worked on projects in the corporate headquarters to get a flavor of the inner workings of the business. He had an opportunity to participate in store openings as well as activities and events at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“Starbucks understands that they have an obligation to more than just the people who work for them, but to the community as well,” said Hotchkiss. “That’s something that I can take back with me to the Navy.”

Starbucks also learns from those participating in the military fellowships.

“Derek and the previous fellows have shared best practices from the Navy including crisis management and process improvement,” said Rachel Schaler, vice president, Supply Chain Operations. “We have appreciated their contributions and insights on logistics at Starbucks.”

An Opportunity for Injured Veterans

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Care Coalition Fellowship provides another opportunity for active duty service members to leverage their military experience while working at Starbucks. The program provides wounded, ill, and injured Special Operations Forces (SOF) service members a head start on their transition while they are still on active duty. During the fellowship, they gain business experience, expand their professional network, and enhance their resume prior to separating from the military.

“Starbucks served as the stepping stone for our program to truly take off,” said Kimberly Moros, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army and Chief of Transition Initiatives, United States Special Operation Command. “The fellowship offered via the Starbucks model is exactly the outcome USSOCOM wants to achieve, a seamless transition into a productive post-military career.”

Next month (August 2015), Don Hood will transition out of the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of military service. Due to a previous injury, Hood qualified for Care Coalition assistance, including utilization of the USSOCOM Care Coalition Fellowship program.

Hood will spend a total of five months with the Quality Assurance team at Starbucks. He has found that his military skills translate very well to the work he has been given to complete.

“At some point in your military career, you will be handed a program you have to run,” said Hood. “This helps to hone your project management skills. As service members, we may not all come out of the military with a degree, but through experience we gain many of the same skills.”

Success in the Civilian World

The future looks promising for the fellows. James Logan was granted an interview for a permanent position at Starbucks during his fellowship. Derek Hotchkiss will travel to Washington, D.C. and work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While Don Hood has three additional months of his fellowship, he is actively seeking a long-term position.

“When I apply for a job, I will have an entry on my resume that says I worked for Starbucks,” said Hood. “That will be invaluable to me in landing the perfect career.”

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