If you’re like me, you’re truly sick of seeing only bad news broadcasted in our nation’s headlines – stories of criminal activity in business, leaders who’ve failed us, and feeble economic initiatives that don’t move the needle on helping youth — or even seasoned professionals — enter (or reenter) the workforce and build their career success.
For a more positive picture of what’s going on in the U.S. that reflects a serious commitment among top business leaders to serve the underserved, I was excited to learn about a new endeavor called The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. This initiative is the nation’s largest employer-led coalition, with nearly 40 companies committed to hiring America’s “Opportunity Youth.” Today, more than 5,000 job youths and their families are welcomed to the third hiring fair of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
To learn more about this initiative, I caught up with Lacey All, Director of Strategy for Community and Public Affairs at Starbucks, and Fanya Chandler, VP and regional full-line store manager, Nordstrom. Both Starbucks and Nordstrom are partners in this initiative. And both of these women are leveraging their unique passions and talents to make a positive difference, not only in the current roles, but in the world around them.
Lacey All started with Starbucks as a store manager, and since then has served in a variety of roles in store operations services, consumer insights, human resources, strategy and community and public affairs development. She helped develop and launch the Starbucks College Achievement Plan and leads Starbucks commitment to the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. Passionate about LGBTQ issues, Lacey serves as the founding President of the Starbucks Pride Alliance Partner Network, is the national C0-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign and served as Chair, Washington United for Marriage.
Fanya Chandler began working at Nordstrom 24 years ago at their Montgomery Mall store in Bethesda, Maryland as a salesperson, quickly moving from department manager to buyer. In 1998, she took on her first store manager role at Nordstrom’s Annapolis store, and went on to manage and open several Nordstrom stores across the country before becoming Regional Director for the Personal Stylist team in 2007, National Personal Stylist Director in 2010 and Director of Customer Experience in 2012. Today, Fanya is based in Dallas and supports 15 Southwest stores as a Regional Manager.
Kathy Caprino: What was the impetus behind starting the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative? What impact do you hope to make through these hiring fairs across the country?
Lacey All: The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is the nation’s largest employer-led coalition with nearly 40 companies committed to hiring America’s “Opportunity Youth.” We hope to spur long-term engagement that will help to launch pathways for young people through part and full time jobs, internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, as well as to develop the potential of youth and support long term career pathways. To date, we have already offered more than 1,300 jobs at Opportunity Fairs in Chicago and Phoenix.
Caprino: Who are “Opportunity Youth” and what are the unique challenges they face?
All: Opportunity Youth are defined as young people ages 16-24 who are out of school and not working –there are currently 5.5 million of these young people in the U.S alone, which is larger than the populations of thirty states in the country. But at the same time,our country has 3.5 million unfulfilled jobs – and jobs that don’t require a four-year degree are the largest part of this labor market. For employers looking to fill these positions, these young, motivated workers provide a vital and untapped resource. The challenge is that young people are often unaware that these opportunities are available , nor are they aware of the steps to take to pursue and secure these jobs.
Chandler: At Nordstrom, we hope that Opportunity Youth are our future employees. It can be a challenge for these young people to find and connect with us, and that’s why we’re so excited to be a part of this initiative – it makes it easier for them to learn more about Nordstrom as a great place to work and consider us as a place to start their career. In Los Angeles, we have a wonderful opportunity to help prepare youth for job interviews and their first roles by enlisting some of our local team to talk with them about work-appropriate attire and hopefully give them even more confidence to start their future.
Caprino: Is there a key commitment or goal you’re aiming to reach with 100,000 Opportunities?
Chandler: Nordstrom initially joined the coalition because we felt strongly that it aligned with our company’s ongoing commitment to empowering youth. We kicked off participation focusing primarily on awareness –getting in front of some fantastic young men and women so they would know about the wealth of career opportunities at Nordstrom.
After the first two events, we were so impressed with the people we met that we extended 109 job offers. We’ve seen awesome candidates who were willing to give Nordstrom a shot. Now we’re inspired to grow our commitment and we’re seeking new ways to connect with these young people outside the 100,000 events around the U.S. We’re excited about what the future holds!
All: Over the next three years, Starbucks alone is committed to hiring at least 10,000 Opportunity Youth. Alongside other coalition members like Taco Bell, TOMS, Sprinkles Cupcakes, Nordstrom, FedEx, and many others, our collective goal is to offer 100,000 jobs nationwide.
We are committed to engaging at least 100,000 “Opportunity Youth” (16-24 year olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education) by 2018 through apprenticeships, internships, and both part-time and full-time jobs.
Caprino: Lacey and Fanya, can you tell us a little bit about your personal stories? What are the benefits that you’ve seen from starting young at a company and working your way up?
All: In my 13 years at Starbucks, I’ve learned it’s essential to lean in when you see talent. Making space for people can lead to diversity of contributions, ultimately delivering a richer product. When I started at Starbucks, I was working within a group of people who were so impressive. They gave me the opportunity to learn from them, and I’ve been lucky to work with a series of leaders who knew how important it was to invest and believe in people, which helped shape how I lead today.
Chandler: I’ve had over 10 different assignments in 24 years at Nordstrom, and have seen successes and failures. Those experiences helped prepare me for where I am today. Each experience has given me knowledge, insight, confidence and humility. All of these characteristics make a good leader and I’ve been fortunate to continue to have the opportunity to grow at Nordstrom.
Caprino: What would you say you’re most proud of in your respective careers?
Chandler: Building teams and relationships at Nordstrom is what I’m most proud of. Accolades are humbling, but what makes me the most excited are the people and the opportunities I’ve had to lead. It’s meaningful to me to help others to chart their career path and find success in the company. I have two great families – my family at home and my Nordstrom family. I’ve grown up with Nordstrom; this company and the people here are part of my family. That’s really special – I believe that with all my heart.
All: I’ve had the opportunity to work with great thinkers, leaders and activators for social change throughout my career at Starbucks. The fact that so many people embrace this work makes me humble and hungry to do more. The teams I work with bring to life important social impact programs like the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, as well as Starbucks College Achievement Plan, and our commitment to veterans and their families.
Caprino: What advice would you give to young people attending the Los Angeles hiring fair today as they look to their future?
All: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you meet someone who can be helpful to you in shaping the future you want, ask them to mentor you. There are so many people who can add perspective for us beyond what we already know, so you should always be willing to ask for mentorship or support.
Chandler: My favorite word is “demonstrate.” Don’t just talk about what you want to do or achieve, but demonstrate it. Also, be patient. That can be hard, but it’s important because it takes time to build up experience to achieve success. Finally, be a student of the business, which means learning constantly from the people around you in order to get better.
For more information, visit 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.
The article originally appeared in Forbes.