Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz on Monday launched a plan for more than a dozen big US businesses to hire 100,000 young unemployed people by 2018.
The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is aimed at trying to help the roughly 5.5 million Americans aged 16 to 24 who do not have jobs and have dropped out of education, a group economists have dubbed “disconnected youth”.
The problem is worst among minority groups, with 22% of young black people classed as disconnected youths, according to the Social Science Research Council. One in five young Native Americans, 16% of Latinos, 11% of white people and 8% of Asian people also fall into the category.
Schultz, who had already pledged that Starbucks would hire 10,000 young people this year, on Monday announced that executives from 16 other big companies – including Macy’s, Taco Bell, Target, Walgreens and Walmart – had also pledged to hire more 16- to 24-year-olds as apprentices and interns and in part-time and full-time roles.
“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,” Schultz said.
“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 “the rules of engagement for philanthropy” were changing.
“It’s not just about writing a check,” he said. “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.”
Brian Niccol, chief executive of Taco Bell, said: “As a company that gives many young Americans their very first job, Taco Bell proudly invests in developing its next generation of leaders through education, job and life skills, and a culture that promotes growth.”
While the new jobs will be welcomed by youth organisations, concerns are likely to be raised that the vast majority of the jobs are likely to pay very low wages. While Starbucks pays more than the minimum wage, its 1.3 million baristas struggle to make ends meet.
Sarah Lovenheim, spokesperson for Young Invincibles, a national non-profit organisation that focuses on empowering young Americans, said: “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 $25bn per year.
“We have also seen our wages fall by 10% over the past 10 years, compared to by 4% for workers generally. 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.”
This article was written by Rupert Neate in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 13th July 2015 16.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010