Published on: August 17, 2015by Kevin Coupe
Heartening story in the Chicago Tribune about a job fair held at Chicago's McCormick Place late last week "kicking off the Starbucks-led 100,000 Opportunities Initiative drew to a close. About 4,000 young people turned out for the fair to interview with more than 30 companies, from Domino's to Uniqlo to Hyatt, and some 600 of them left with job offers, organizers said ... It was the first of what organizers hope is a series of job fairs across the country uniting corporations and community nonprofits to get jobs or training for 100,000 disadvantaged youths ages 16 to 24 by 2018. The aim is to target the 5.6 million youth who are neither in school nor working, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, who face high unemployment rates."
The story notes that there was a fairly high-level attendance for a job fair - among the people in attendance were Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, rapper Common, JC Penney CEO Marvin Ellison, rapper T.I., Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
One of the more interesting anecdotes concerned Nordstrom President Jamie Nordstrom, who "listened to 20-year-old Lawrence Mead dispense advice about how the retailer could improve its marketing. 'Let me ask you guys a question,' Nordstrom said to his tablemates. Why, he wanted to know, isn't Nordstrom getting more applicants for entry-level retail jobs?"
Mead told Nordstrom that location was one problem, and added, "Nordstrom looks almost very tempting to the average eye to apply for a job there, because it looks like you are looking for specific people — like, uppity people who know more so about Nordstrom and that type of stuff, versus someone who might apply for, I don't know, a Foot Locker or something like that." There is, he said, a perception issue.
The Tribune writes that Nordstrom "interviewed 144 people and made 64 job offers that day for sales, support and customer service jobs at Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and Trunk Club, a company representative said.
"The Nordstrom president said later that the company promotes from within and that it wants people to join at the ground floor to develop into leaders. The event demonstrated, he said, 'that we need to get out more ... Here's all these candidates who we never would otherwise have talked to probably, or may not have considered themselves a candidate when they saw a posting,' Nordstrom said."
The obvious lesson is that businesses can profit enormously by reaching out to disadvantaged youths and communities that can serve as a source of talent ... but it seems to me that this story illustrates that these communities also can serve as a source of intelligence about demographic groups that these companies may not understand.
It is an Eye-Opening story. Kudos to Starbucks for leading the charge, and to all the companies that decided that this was an opportunity worth embracing.
- KC's View: