Grinding coffee beans, a whirring blender, or the hiss of steaming milk are not the sounds you would expect to hear at a mayor’s town hall.
Last night (August 13, 2014), however, a Starbucks store on Alhambra Boulevard in Central Sacramento became the setting for a meeting with Mayor Kevin Johnson and over 50 community leaders dedicated to strengthening job training, placement and education opportunities for young people in the city.
Sacramento hosted the nation’s first Solutions City™ event. The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) – of which Mayor Johnson is president – and Starbucks announced the national initiative in June to support local action and strengthen neighborhoods, particularly in the areas of access to education, support for returning veterans, and empowering youth.
It’s the first in a series of Solutions City community meetings Mayor Johnson’s office will host over the course of one year at Starbucks stores around Sacramento. Starbucks plans to collaborate with the USCM and share the best ideas across cities.
“We need to address how we reach the job seeker of the 21st century; particularly those who want to work in Sacramento’s technology, medicine, food science or clean energy sectors,” said Mayor Johnson. “Solutions City can be one way to bring us together and help identify a plan to meet our young people’s needs. Starbucks is critical to that equation because they can use their scale to mobilize resources and volunteers to support these solutions, and track and share their results.”
For Blair Taylor, Starbucks chief community officer, Solutions City is an example of the type of tangible, public-private model Starbucks is building to create pathways to opportunity for young people through initiatives like Starbucks College Achievement Plan or its commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years. Beyond the company, Starbucks is also working with its broad supply chain to connect opportunity youth, those 16-24 year olds neither at work nor school, with new training, mentorship and employment opportunities through programs like Leaders Up.
“Together, we need to drive the solutions,” Taylor said at the event in Sacramento. “Under the vision and leadership our mayors, we can all come together to provide the skills, training and job opportunities our young people need to participate in the 21st Century economy.”
In the coming weeks, Starbucks will host similar town hall meetings with mayors in Columbus, Phoenix, Baltimore and Orlando.
“Mayors are problem solvers, rising to meet the challenges facing our communities every single day,” said Taylor. “Solutions City helps put a formal framework and tangible goals around what’s already occurring and uses Starbucks stores as gathering places for mayors and citizens to deliberately discuss issues and drive toward the best local solutions.”
At Wednesday’s meeting in Sacramento, participants addressed a number of topics to begin identifying their collective priorities for the year ahead.
“There are many jobs out here, but we recognize that young people need the right skills and training to get ready for these roles,” said participant Ron Groepper, Senior Vice President and Sacramento area manager for Kaiser Permanente.
Dr. Alex Taghavian, senior program manager at the Linked Learning Alliance, said there are a number of tried and tested job training and placement programs, but like others in the room, he acknowledged that young people need employers to “step up and provide capacity for work-based learning at scale.”
Taylor agreed that companies have an urgent role to play as he discussed the ways in which Starbucks and other companies can use their scale for good to create a more inclusive 21st Century economy.
For Mayor Johnson, Solutions City is an opportunity to prepare for what he has often referred to as Cities 3.0.
“If Sacramento is going to keep up with this pace, drive revitalization, and be the ultimate service provider, we need to become a lab and incubator of change,” said Mayor Johnson. “We need partners like Starbucks, who have the power to use their scale to help increase our reach and impact.”
Mayor Johnson will convene the Solutions City community every six-eight weeks over the course of the year. Check back on Starbucks Newsroom throughout September 2014 for updates from Solutions City town halls in Columbus, Phoenix, Baltimore and Orlando.