Starbucks opens new cafe with skills training center inside

WHITE CENTER, Wash.-- A new Starbucks opens Friday in White Center, but this coffee shop has a unique vision: to contribute to local economic development in a low income community, and to help those in the neighborhood get the job skills for a successful future.

“I was excited for the fact to come in and hopefully change at least one person’s life,” said shift supervisor, Alix Nickerson.

Nickerson decided to transfer from one Starbucks, to this one. She heard about the store’s mission, and wanted to be a part of it.

“I want to help people and I want to show people that you can do it and it will be ok,” said Nickerson.

The new White Center Starbucks is unlike any of the other 90 plus Starbucks shops you will find in Seattle. This one will have a special community room off to the side, aimed for job-skills training for young people ages 16-25 who face systemic barriers to meaningful jobs and education.

The multi-week program is based on Starbucks own customer service training, and will be taught by the YWCA Greenbridge, free of cost.

The Starbucks employees themselves serve as role models for those taking the class. They are an example of how the skills in the classroom can transfer to the work force.

“I want to be able to be that person that they can come to be like, ‘hey what do I do? Like how do I move from this training opportunity to being employed with Starbucks?’” said Nickerson.

It is an initiative Starbucks has been working on for a while. The program has already been in place in Ferguson, Missouri, Phoenix, Queens, East Baltimore and Chicago.

It has proven to be successful too. Of the 30 young people who graduated from the Ferguson program, nearly all found work.

“The reason why we chose the YWCA is because they have the know-how, the expertise and the relationships and the trust with the young people who they serve. They have a history of providing access to jobs and training for these young people,” said Rodney Hines.

The program is heavily focused on customer service… but, yes, the trainees will learn how to make coffee too.

“To put them in front of an espresso machine and to teach them a tangible skill and to have them successfully complete it….what we’ve heard is that this is the one reason why a young person who's run away from home has been comfortable and excited to call home and say, ‘I have learned a skill,’” said Rodney Hines, Director of U.S. Social Impact at Starbucks.

Starbucks says the new store is about much more than making money—it is about being a good neighbor.

“Starbucks is humbled and grateful that we've been invited to be a part of the White Center community. This is a really rich cultural community that has a lot of intent about what they want this community to be and for them to see that Starbucks can be part of that vision is exciting and humbling for us,” said Hines.

Even though the classes will take place inside Starbucks, there is not a requirement that everyone who completes the class needs to work at the store afterwards. They can take their certificate anywhere they want.

The goal for the White Center store program is to graduate at least 100 people a year.

There isn’t a schedule yet of when the classes will begin, but Starbucks and the YWCA plan to announce that soon.

In other markets, the program lasted between six to ten weeks, with about two sessions per week.