At-risk youth find new beginnings with the help of Starbucks Canada

Dec 19 2017, 9:18 pm

With the number of unemployed youth being double than the overall jobless rate in Canada, the opportunities for young people to enter the job market are bleak.

The barriers for youth to be employed increase when they are faced with social and economic challenges, preventing them from going to school or receiving opportunities to gain employability related skills.

However, Starbucks Canada and the Pacific Community Resource Society (PCRS) have partnered up in hopes to help at-risk youth gain career-based skills training.

Besides being involved with PCRS, Starbucks Canada started working closely with Wood’s Homes in Calgary and Yonge Street Mission (YSM) in Toronto, just this year.

PCRS is an award winning, accredited, not-for-profit society serving Lower Mainland communities since 1984. The agency provides alternative education, employment, addiction counselling and prevention services, housing support, and cultural enrichment for children, youth, adults and families.

This past week, 19 youth in Vancouver and Surrey graduated from the Barista Training Program in B.C.

Of this group of 19, eight were the first to graduate from the Vancouver program, in its inaugural year.

The young people enrolled in the program all had their own unique challenges that contributed to their struggle in finding work. Some of them were on the edge of homelessness, out of foster care, recovering from abuse or addiction, living in poverty or suffering from mental illness.

Over the past nine weeks, the youth from Surrey and Vancouver completed in-class and in–store Starbucks work experience allowing them to learn and practice skills that would be an asset to find employment or return to school to continue their education.

The program was not just focused on learning how to be a barista. Students were also taught how to write resumes and cover letters, answer interview questions, and how to interact with management and customers.

Moreover, the students were able to make personal connections, network and gain an overall sense of self worth and boost their self-esteem.

Sam was one of the students involved in the program. Prior to starting the Starbucks training, the 23-year-old single mom was doing odd jobs and temp work trying to make ends meet.

She heard of the of the work placement opportunity through a friend and she decided to take a chance. At first, she thought that the training would be only about learning how to make complicated drinks for choosy customers.

However, as time  went on, she realized she was not only gaining job skills, but also confidence in herself.

“Before the program I had no confidence or skills and I did not have a lot of friends. But as soon as I walked into the first day of class, I was ready to shine. I felt important and included and the program facilitators were always there to help,” Sam told Vancity Buzz.

Now that her training is complete, Sam hopes to find a job as a barista and put the skills she learned at Starbucks to good use.

Nineteen-year-old Alysha was another student in the barista program. She found out about the opportunity to participate  through an organization called L.O.V.E (Leave out Violence) at the Broadway Youth Resource Centre in Vancouver.

unnamedAlysha (seen here) is now working as a barista after completing the program

Before beginning her work place training at Starbucks, Alysha explains that she faced personal challenges that kept her from getting work.

“I had anxiety. It brought me down and played a role [in the difficulty of finding a job]. I also had nothing on my resume and no work experience,” Alysha explains.

At first, having to work and learn with people she had never met before was slightly intimidating.

However on completing her work placement term, Alysha has not only learned the ins and outs of being a barista, but also how to feel more comfortable and at ease in the workplace.

“I have learned how to gain more confidence and my self-esteem is different,” she says.

Alysha flourished in the program and now she has been hired as a barista for Starbucks. She hopes to continue her work with the company but she sees herself working with children in the future and putting her Early Childhood Education certificate to good use.

Alejandra Hergert is a PCRS program facilitator and worked closely with the youth involved with the barista training.

Alejandra explains that the young people involved in the training experience positive personal growth over the nine weeks.

“You see such a transformation in assertiveness. They are proud and they don’t stop smiling,” she says.

Feature Image: Shutterstock via weedezign

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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