June 17, 2015 Sustainability

Starbucks Canada Baristas Training Program Reaches 500 Graduates

VANCOUVER, B.C. June 17, 2015 – This week 10 B.C. youth have taken the next step in their journey toward building better futures as they successfully graduated from the Baristas training program. The 12-year joint initiative between Starbucks Canada and Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) is on track to graduate 100 disconnected and disadvantaged B.C. youth this year.  Since its inception in 2003, the Baristas training program has successfully graduated 500 vulnerable B.C. youth, helping them build life skills and gain work experience so they can successfully find meaningful employment or go back to school to further their education. 

Starbucks has always set out to deliver business success with a social conscience and has made important investments for Opportunity Youth - young people aged 16-24 who are not in school nor employed. In 2014, Starbucks Canada invested $840,000 to promote the training and development of disconnected young people in Surrey, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary.  Earlier this year, Starbucks committed to hire 10 percent of Toronto partners (approximately 150) from struggling communities across the city.   And in May, Starbucks kicked off a series of Youth Open Forums across the country with young Canadians 18-24 to understand what they need to help achieve their goals. Starbucks Vancouver Youth Open Forum will be held Thursday, June 18.

“An overwhelming number of young people in Canada are not in school and not employed. In British Columbia alone, the youth unemployment rate is nearly double the national average*.  We believe every business has a responsibility to create opportunities to help Canadian youth succeed in today’s economy,” said Caroline Ternes, regional vice president, Starbucks Canada.

“We are celebrating 500 graduates from the Baristas program with PCRS, but importantly, we are celebrating 500 young people who had the courage to start a new path to build better futures.”

The nine-week Baristas training program is a key component of the PCRS Youth Employment service, which initially received core funding from the Federal Skills Link Initiative and more recently, the BC BladeRunners program and Starbucks Canada. The program, held eight times per year with 10-12 youth at a time, combines five weeks of  life skills and job training with four weeks of in-store Starbucks work experience. In Starbucks stores, young people learn teamwork, customer service, food and workplace health and safety in addition to Starbucks® beverage preparation. 

“PCRS is proud of the many successful young people who have trusted in this program to help them get started in life,” said Ingrid Kastens, Executive Director, Pacific Community Resources Society. “PCRS is grateful for everyone who has contributed in so many various ways to the success of the program but especially to the many kindhearted Starbucks store managers who provide invaluable guidance, experience and opportunity to the youth in their stores. Youth unemployment is a national crisis and marginalized young people face further barriers to employment.  Starbucks has been a rock star among youth-friendly employers and we’re proud of our work together.” 

Meet the graduates

Fiona Kehler was one of the first successful graduates of the Baristas training program in 2004. Kehler was 18 when she enrolled in the first year of the Baristas program.  Often struggling academically and skipping classes, Kehler found she did not have the credits necessary to graduate high school.  With only babysitting and a bit of farm work experience, she struggled to find a job.  With encouragement from her boyfriend, she applied for the Baristas program.

"When I found out I had been accepted, I was so excited. I made a decision that day that I would make a real change in my life,” Kehler said. “I committed to doing my very best in the classroom. I wanted so badly to succeed not only in the classroom, but I wanted to prove to my new Starbucks manager that I was not only able, but that I could be really good at my job. I did it. I proved to them that I was right for the job, and I was hired.”

Kehler was a Starbucks barista for two years after graduating and returned to Starbucks in 2010. Today, she remains a dedicated Starbucks partner, working as the assistant manager of Starbucks Tribeca café in south Surrey. She is aiming to become a store manager in the near future.

For 19-year-old Kalib Swaby, the celebration at PCRS represents more than the completion of the Baristas program.  Swaby, who struggled to find the confidence to even apply for jobs before enrolling in the program, has been hired as a Starbucks barista.  His experience has given him the confidence to dream big. He plans to go back to school and hopes to become a paramedic to help people “when they need it most.”

“Before joining the Baristas program, I felt like a bird in a nest, watching everyone take flight while I sat back because I didn’t have the confidence or courage to leave the nest,” Swaby said. “Being in this program taught me how to fly.”


About Starbucks

Since 1971, Starbucks Coffee Company has been committed to ethically sourcing and roasting high-quality arabica coffee. Today, with stores around the globe, the company is the premier roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Through our unwavering commitment to excellence and our guiding principles, we bring the unique Starbucks Experience to life for every customer through every cup. To share in the experience, please visit us in our stores or online at Starbucks.ca and the Starbucks Newsroom.

About Pacific Resources Community Society

Pacific Community Resources Society is an award winning, accredited, not-for-profit society serving Lower Mainland communities since 1984. The agency provides alternate education, employment, addiction counselling and prevention services, housing support, and cultural enrichment for children, youth, adults and families. Pacific Community Resources is committed to community-based research, advocacy, and community development to identify service gaps and strategies to address social problems such as poverty, child abuse, mental health, substance abuse, violence and homelessness. 

*Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey May 2015

For more information on this story, contact Carly Suppa, Starbucks Canada