Starbucks, Taco Bell Seek to Hire Hundreds of Youths in Chicago

Starbucks, Taco Bell, Chipotle and other companies are hiring hundreds of young people at a job fair in Chicago meant to expand opportunities for those at risk of getting left out of the workforce.

“These young kids are just longing for an opportunity,” Starbucks Corp. Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz said in an interview at the hiring fair Thursday. “I want to see young kids get hired and starting jobs as soon as possible.”

Schultz was joined at the fair by representatives from restaurant chains and retailers such as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Taco Bell and Nordstrom Inc., who also have committed to employing more young people. The group of 29 companies said that by 2018 it will hire 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds who face systemic barriers to jobs and education.

Starbucks, which is leading the push, has recently tried to improve benefits for its workers. The Seattle-based company earlier this year upgraded its tuition-assistance program, offering full tuition for workers to get a degree from Arizona State University. About 4,000 employees are participating in the program and five graduated this year, Schultz said.

About 3,500 job candidates are expected to attend Thursday’s event, which is being funded in part by Starbucks and the Schultz Family Foundation. More hiring fairs in other cities are being planned.

Taco Bell stores are planning to hire as many as 50 workers at the fair, while Pizza Hut is looking to employ at least 150. Both chains are owned by Yum! Brands Inc.

At Taco Bell, 55 percent of employees are between 16 and 24 years old.

“We’re one of the folks that gives them their first job,” Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said. “A lot of people find teenagers annoying. They’re not annoying; they’re someone worth investing in.”

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