June 18, 2014
Starbucks Sends You To School
My close friend and roommate once worked at a Starbucks, and of the myriad things he had to say, chief among them was the sentiment that, quite simply, Starbucks was weird — at least, weird as far as a company is concerned. I remember my surprise when he told me that even part-time workers were offered health benefits and stock options. I could have sworn he was pulling my leg. But no, Starbucks has always been ahead of the curve in terms of company-employee relationships, and that relationship is about to become even more beneficial.
The biggest problem with part-time food service jobs is they are almost always a necessity. Rarely does someone wish to spend the rest of their live serving coffee to hipsters and disgruntled college students, and the people at Starbucks are well aware of this. Unlike many other places that try to pretend like the job isn’t soul-draining, or try to make you think that there’s some kind of greater enlightenment to be had by climbing the ranks of the corporation, Starbucks has embraced the fact that they are, in many ways, a stepping stone — a means to an end. And they’re perfectly okay with this. In fact, they’re going out of their way to accommodate the larger life goals of their employees by teaming up with Arizona State University. Any employee who works 20 hours a week or more and has the testing results to gain admission to Arizona State can attend the courses they have on the coffee giant’s dime. Those who have at least two years of college credit will have the whole deal paid in full, but even those who have less than that will receive partial aid from Starbucks. Combined with university and government aid, these are likely to end up free anyway.
A lot of companies offer programs wherein employees can get some measure of reimbursement, but this takes it to a completely new level. Starbucks is basically inviting people to come work for them with the explicit goal of aiding their quest for self-improvement. It’s not an ulterior motive; it’s a stated goal.
Personally, I’m excited not just for those people who can now advance their lives in a direction they desire, but also because Starbucks has breached unprecedented grounds by forming an alliance with higher education. Instead of pretending that they have an excellent, wonderful future to offer these people (which, to be fair might be the case occasionally), they are willing to work with their employees to help them acheieve larger things. That’s smart, because let’s be honest — turnaround at these kinds of places is going to be pretty decent anyway. You’re not likely to keep any particular employee for more than a few years, unless they really like making coffee, and this gives the company a chance to not only genuinely help people, but also practically associate their brand with a strong, positive attitude towards higher education and personal goals.
Good job, Starbucks. Hipster atmosphere or no, this is incredible. Keep on being awesome. Hopefully other companies will begin to follow suit.
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