Starbucks is announcing Wednesday a plan to hire at least 10,000 military veterans and active-duty spouses over the next five years.
Chief Executive Howard Schultz, who will detail the plan at Starbucks headquarters, has charted an aggressive global expansion that ultimately calls for 500,000 employees companywide, up from 200,000 today.
The announcement also coincides with a massive drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, meaning more than a million people will leave the military and transition to civilian life over the next few years.
Schultz will be joined Wednesday by former Secretary of Defense and CIA director Robert Gates, now a Starbucks board member.
"This is, in my view, not charity or philanthropy. But in fact, this is good business," Schultz said Monday in an interview at the company's Sodo offices. "These are highly skilled, highly trained people who have significant leadership capabilities, who will add value to Starbucks."
Also on Wednesday, Starbucks will turn a coffee shop in Lakewood, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and another in San Antonio, into so-called community stores. That means a set amount from each transaction will be invested back into the community through local nonprofits.
The Lakewood Starbucks, at 10314 S. Tacoma Way, will give 10 cents per transaction to a Goodwill program, Operation: GoodJobs, which helps veterans with their post-military job searches. In San Antonio, Starbucks will partner with Vested in Vets, another Goodwill program.
They are the sixth and seventh stores of their kind out of nearly 20,000 Starbucks worldwide. The company also has a community store in Seattle's Central District, where 15 cents from each transaction goes to YWCA programs.
About 8,000 people will be discharged annually from JBLM over the next three years. "A great number of them will remain in Pierce and Thurston counties," said Tacoma Goodwill CEO Terry Hayes.
The local Goodwill hopes to get at least $100,000 a year from Starbucks to expand the veterans program. Over the past 18 months, Operation: GoodJobs has helped about 350 local veterans and spouses transition to civilian life, Hayes said.
"It's a difficult transition for a lot of young veterans," Hayes said. "We figure out what military experience they had and find companies that would look upon them as terrific assets."
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, announced a plan in January to hire any veteran who applies for a job within a year of an honorable discharge. Wal-Mart expects to hire more than 100,000 vets within five years.
Also, Microsoft is sponsoring a pilot program at JBLM to make vets eligible for jobs as entry-level software testers. The program provides a 16-week course, taught by instructors from St. Martin's University in Lacey, Thurston County, and guarantees job interviews for beginner testing positions at Microsoft.
September's unemployment rate for all veterans was 6.5 percent, well below the national average of 7.2 percent.
But Starbucks director Gates said, "It's not enough until every veteran has a job,"
Businesses, said Gates, "have stepped up over the last year or so, from Wall Street to Main Street, in committing to hire a significant number of veterans."
Starbucks' plan builds on a veterans-mentoring program that it began six years ago in partnership with the Armed Forces Network.
The company already employs thousands of veterans in its stores and corporate offices, said spokeswoman Haley Drage. The new program will enable Starbucks to identify post-military employees and track their numbers companywide, she said.
Another component is specialized training for hiring managers, so that veterans can more easily translate their experience to the workplace and find jobs. A segment of the human-resources department will focus on vets and spouses, Drage said.
"This is absolutely the right thing to do for so many people who have a hard time landing softly and finding their way back to civilian life," Schultz said. "Businesses and business leaders need to meet them more than halfway."