Starbucks commits to 1,000 refugee hires by 2022
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Unlike many in his age group, Kambiz Kakwan’s career path has been anything but difficult.

When Kakwan, who immigrated to Canada from Iran alone, started his job search online he stumbled upon the Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS), which was running a barista training program for youth in partnership with Starbucks. The two-month training program, which covered subjects like greeting customers, First Aid, and Canadian cultural values, helped him adjust to a new country much more quickly. Since then, he has been working for the global coffee company as a barista and store clerk.

Seeing the results from the youth work program, Starbucks is launching a new partnership with the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia and Surrey Local Immigration Partnership. The program will focus on refugees, with a goal of hiring at least 1,000 newcomers—many of whom will be youth by 2022 in Vancouver and Surrey, where the company has more than 150 stores.

Kakwan said his job has given him the opportunity to prove he’s a “capable person.”

Luisa Girotto, vice-president of public affairs at Starbucks Canada, said the company has chosen the locations where there are big talents pools, density of stores, and agencies that are already working with newcomers.

Since the launch of the Opportunity Youth work program two years ago with PCRS, Starbucks has seen a 30 per cent higher employee retention than those who don’t come through the training program, according to Girotto.

“We learned that tenure and stability is greater than the average and engagement is greater than the average. So it’s perhaps that old rule, that when you give someone an opportunity that they might not get easily otherwise at all, they repay you with commitment and loyalty. And by the way, a great job done.”

Employee retention has long been a challenge for many large chain retailers and Starbucks is doing relatively better at lowering their turnover rates. 

Speaking on behalf of one of the partner organizations, Patrick MacKenzie, CEO of the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C., said he’s also hearing that hiring immigrants is better for employee retention. Hiring newcomers also improves workplace diversity.

“When you work within your own network, that means you’re hiring generally people very much like yourself. But you also limit yourself from finding people who may bring a diversity of thought to the workplace,” he said.

Besides, it’s generally better for the bottom line, said MacKenzie. “There’s research out there that says diverse organizations actually make more money.”

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Source: StarMetro Vancouver / Jenny Peng

Photo: Kambiz Kakwan, 24, is a new immigrant from Iran who found a job at Starbucks after undergoing a barista training program.