2017/03/25 Leave a comment
Starbucks, the Seattle-based global coffee chain, has announced plans to hire 10,000 refugees around the world, including 1,000 in Canada over five years.
Wednesday’s announcement followed outgoing Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz’s earlier defiance and criticisms of U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel bans against Muslim-majority countries and suspension of refugee programs.
In response to the new administration’s executive orders, Schultz reaffirmed the company’s values by committing to hire refugees, “building bridges, not walls, with Mexico,” and supporting undocumented youth and former U.S. president Barack Obama’s affordable health care plan.
“We see the role Canada plays in accepting refugees. These newcomers need jobs to resettle successfully. We believe in their potential. They have tremendous skills to contribute to our company and to our country,” said Luisa Girotto, Starbucks Canada’s vice-president, public affairs.
“All they need is the first opportunity to kick-start a new life in Canada. We have thousands of jobs to fill and enough opportunity for every segment in society.”
Girotto said the company will work with Hire Immigrants — an agency out of Ryerson University that supports best practices to integrate newcomer workers — to recruit, train and retain refugee employees through its local community networks in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
The refugee hiring initiative will build on Starbucks’ Opportunity Youth program, which focuses on training and hiring young people as a response to high youth unemployment.
Mark Patterson, executive director of Hire Immigrants, said he was not surprised when approached by Starbucks to be a partner of the refugee employment initiative.“Here is a company that understands the diverse population it serves. Diversity is part of its values. We hope we can get the message out to show the economic values of being diverse and inclusive, and to spur other employers to do the same,” said Patterson.
Yusra Zein-Alabdin, whose family came to Canada last July via Turkey under the Syrian refugee resettlement program, said social and professional networks are a key to securing employment.
“It is not easy to go out and ask someone if they have an available job,” said the mother of two, who has a degree in English literature and used to teach English to impoverished children back home.
“We were not welcomed in Turkey. I’m surprised and very happy that not only the Canadian government wants to help refugees, but everyone, businesses and employers also want to help us.”
Like New York-based Chobani yogurt, which was attacked on social media by Trump supporters for hiring refugees, Schultz’s refugee hiring speech also drew threats of boycotts against the coffee chain by anti-immigrant groups.
Ontario independent Senator Ratna Omidvar, who founded the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, said the conversation in the United States on refugees is very different from Canada’s.
“When the community flourishes, the company flourishes. Here we have an enlightened employer, Starbucks, taking a positive stand, saying we need to build bridges, not walls,” said Omidvar. “The company may have to take a risk, but it is a statement that many would agree with.”
Starbucks has more than 1,300 outlets and 19,000 employees in Canada. Staff who work a minimum of 20 hours a week are eligible for medical and dental care, as well as up to $5,000 a year in mental health support and tuition reimbursements.