War Veterans Recruited…By Starbucks

Starbucks, who currently employs around 134,000 people in the United States (less than I thought, really), is now looking to hire a few good men and women.

The company’s recruitment goal is 10,000 military veterans and military spouses over the next five years. This demographic, according to former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is now a Starbucks “director,” whatever that means (shareholder? lobbyist? is there a Starbucks lobby?), is “one of the most underutilized talent pools in our country.” Oof:

“This is not only about hiring baristas,” Chief Executive Howard Schultz told Reuters.

Starbucks is seeking individuals with experience in everything from leading teams to building and managing complex, global supply chains, Schultz said.

As the company expands globally and gets coffee and tea from around the globe, veterans offer international experience and foreign language skills, Gates added.

“They bring an understanding of other cultures and they’re accustomed to working with diverse and international partners,” Gates said.

I mean, sure.

Arguably this demographic’s most pressing need is timely access to mental health care, but a decent job and a pumpkin spiced latte might not be so bad, either.

Photo: jeffwilcox


31 Comments / Post A Comment

aetataureate (#1,310)

Meaghan, I’m legit confused by your kind of snarky tone, when Starbucks offers benefits even to its part-time people and a lot of room for advancement. This seems like a genuinely good move on Starbucks’ part and a demographic whose skills are underutilized in the civilian world.

Meaghano (#529)

@aetataureate Oh, no, I agree. I was being genuine saying this is probably a good opportunity for many people (well, in so many words, “decent job” I guess not explicit as I should have been). Mostly I think it is sad that these people’s skills *are* underutilized in the first place, and that Starbucks gets to be the corporate hero coming in to help. Like, a net positive but sad state of affairs type of thing. Sorry if/that it came off dismissive! Hard to express in a few sentences.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@Meaghano No, that helps. The commenter below is right that ‘Bucks will also get the tax credit, which is designed to incentivize hiring veterans and may therefore be . . . You know, working.

I’ve heard of an exploitative practice where businesses hire a bunch of veterans, keep them long enough to get some kind of tax credit, and let them all go en masse. Definitely prefer Starbucks boss’s sometimes-kind-of-patronizing outreach efforts to that.

loren smith (#2,300)

@aetataureate Just curiosity – I spent six months at a Starbucks back in 2008 and it was easily the worst job I have ever had. They’d hold us at .5 hrs under the cut-off for part-time benefits, there were no opportunities for advancement, even though we were all starving students we were forced to throw away edible food daily – do you know if any of this has changed? People are always surprised when I tell them about what a terrible job it was, as it seems Starbucks has such good PR. Maybe they’ve smartened up?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@loren smith That’s awful, good god. Sorry. People I know who work/ed there haven’t said anything like that to me. Unlike the Borders contingent, etc. who had constant giant valid complaints.

loren smith (#2,300)

@aetataureate Yeah maybe I just had some bad stores? It was basically Walmart though – even down to managers joking about closing shops that tried to unionize.

@loren smith Starbucks is among the best *in the realm of the companies that employ large numbers of low-wage service employees* — there’s a lot of space in the American world of work for a Starbucks to both suck and be substantially better than McDonalds or Wal-Mart.

loren smith (#2,300)

@stuffisthings okay.

@loren smith sorry I meant “Starbucks job” — and yeah as you said it can also vary from store to store.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@all Is Starbucks ALL corporate owned? I know even McDonald’s does franchises.

@aetataureate apparently they franchise “on a very limited basis”: http://investor.starbucks.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=99518&p=irol-faq#26956

(I suspect the miniature ones you see in hotels and hospitals and whatnot are more likely to be franchises?)

aetataureate (#1,310)

@stuffisthings OH YEAH like the terrible ones inside grocery stores and tollway oases (here in Illinois).

Matt9 (#3,779)

This is probably about qualifying for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which expires at the end of the year.

“Director” means that he’s on the Board of Directors.

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

In some countries attempting to recruit 10,000 people with military training might be the first stage of a coup. I’m watching you Starbucks!

I actually read a good article a while back about how poor people are often recruited into the military with the promise of “marketable skills” when in reality most of the available jobs are highly military specific (I can’t find the link right now). For example, operating the sonar system on a nuclear submarine or a very specific kind of military radio isn’t a skillset that’s going to translate directly to a civilian job. That said, a large proportion of soldiers are actually doing logistics, IT, administration, and things of that nature — but maybe these positions go to recruits who already have some training and experience from the civilian world?

Always makes me think of my granddad in WWII — he was an antiaircraft gunner and he was basically trained how to move the gun up and down, while another guy was trained how to move it left and right…

@stuffisthings I think it’s also an issue of officer vs, enlisted, which is problematic. The officers I know – the ones who leave after their ROTC/OCS obligation is up – do much better, I’m assuming because they already have degrees to add to their military achievements and management experience. The enlisted vets I know had a much, much harder time after leaving, both because they had developed proficiency in the technical skills that don’t transfer well to civilian work, and because the military just doesn’t do a good job of transferring people into the civilian life. If you haven’t had to even choose your own work clothes in years and the things you do well don’t exist off-base, where do you start?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@bowtiesarecool Great points, and I think they also find the idea of then returning to school to be frustrating — both trying to “fit in” as a nontraditional older student AND the new power structure, etc.

@aetataureate Yeah, that’s definitely also part of it. I know people who really made the GI Bill work for them, but there’s a reason campus vets’ groups need to exist.

But I think a lot of people enlist because they don’t see themselves fitting into the traditional higher education model anyway, and see the military as a good alternative, and they’re the ones who need the most support. Lots of people don’t want to just go get a GI Bill bachelor’s after discharge. I don’t think we really have a great system for helping people translate their strengths in the military to post-discharge jobs, apprenticeships, trade schools, etc.

@bowtiesarecool Tangential, but do Navy people ever get annoyed at the “GI” label?

aetataureate (#1,310)

@bowtiesarecool I wish there were more options for people who aren’t interested in traditional higher ed across the board, let alone for those who have combat experience and the issues associated with that. My vet friend prefers a job where he can just work alone and do something pretty mindless and methodical all day because it’s not stressful and doesn’t trigger his PTSD.

ETA: As opposed to when you sit in a huge group in class and get specifically picked out to answer questions, etc. in front of everyone. That doesn’t sound horrible! Sad LOLs.

Eric18 (#4,486)


As a veteran, I have to laugh and cringe at the same time. The amount of ignorance displayed by the public about the military is sad. If the only source of reference you have for the military is a WW2 anecdote, then the civilian-military divide is much worse than I thought.

Working on a nuclear submarine is considered one of the most demanding jobs in the military. Their training has one of the highest washout rates of any course in the military. Why? Because they are working on a NUCLEAR freaking sub. Do you have any clue how hard it is to maintain and operate one of these? Put it this way, it is infinitely harder than managing a IDEV project. I know several who have gone through the course and they said it was tougher than anything they had gone through in their civilian universities. And these were all guys with STEM degrees from great schools. I only know nuke officers, but their enlisted are just as well trained, if not more so, as they do most of the work on the sub.

You could not have picked a worse example, as bubbleheads (nickname for U.S. submariners) are some of the most well equipped to enter the civilian workforce if they choose to leave the service. The demand for them is high (working in nuke power plants is just one example) and the jobs they secure are very well-paying ones.

You contradict yourself when you say most jobs are military specific and then talk about how most are in IT and logistics. You think those jobs are military specific? I can assure you that while there are a lot of “logistics, IT, administration, and things of that nature” type of jobs, the military provides the training (which is often times much better than what you see in the civilian world) and does not look for people who have those skills. There are only a handful of jobs (interpreters is one that comes to mind) where the military is looking for somebody already trained. Even for terps though, they have a great school (DLI in Monterey) where they train young enlisted (think 18-20 year olds) in all high demand languages.

No profession other than the military takes people that are uneducated in a certain skill, trains them up thoroughly, and has them practicing that skill and giving them great responsibility at a very young age. I guarantee you that a lot of those logistics and IT guys are better trained in their profession than yours and have a lot of more responsibility, not to mention are a lot younger than you.

Combat arms are oftentimes thought to not have “relevant” skills for the civilian world, but that is a myth too. Tell me, what were you doing at 23 years old? An infantry platoon leader of that age is commanding 25-30 soldiers, responsible for millions in equipment, and is making life and death decisions. Yes, even in “peacetime,” as we train as we fight and our training can be extremely dangerous.

End Rant. But wow, the amount of ignorance that people have about their military, especially urbanites who pride themselves on being “worldly” is amazing. It’s your military, folks. You paid for it and you should at least spend a little time learning the FACTS about it.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@bowtiesarecool It can be difficult but the military has made great strides in helping service members transition. Oftentimes, they have vets come in from companies that exiting soldiers are looking at and act as an informal mentor.

I wouldn’t paint all enlisted folks with the broad brush you seem to be doing. They occupy hundreds of MOS’s (job specialties) and they are much more wide and varied, not to mention compatible with civilian jobs, than you think.

garysixpack (#4,263)

Eric18 is now officially my hero. Thank you for your service, btw.

@Eric18 Wow, what a fountain of bad faith! Speaking of civilian-military relations, the contemptuous attitude service members have of civilians who dare to not understand a particular piece of military minutiae or get a rank or designation wrong certain doesn’t do any favors.

In any case, I was *trying* to open up a discussion of other reasons why many veterans might struggle in the job market besides the lazy assumption “they all have PTSD.” I work with several veterans and have known many dozens of people who served in the U.S. military, as well as several foreign militaries (including members of my own family). The only people I can think of who apply their *technical* military skills in their work are: the former Airmen I knew who did their same jobs as private contractors for 10x the pay post-service; a former Soviet military liaison we work with in Ethiopia (who learned Amharic in the Red Army); and a former JAG officer whose legal analysis skills come in handy from time to time.

If I’m not mistaken, the platoon leaders you mention are commissioned officers meaning that most have university degrees. Your 23-year-old example would almost certainly have gone to a service academy or done ROTC in college meaning they would be (relatively) well trained for a civilian job regardless of their military experience. That’s not who we’re talking about: we’re talking about the other 41 guys in the platoon (and if you read the thread, you would see people already talked about the different experiences of officers vs. enlisted.)

As for the Navy sonar example, I brought it up because I recall that being one of the examples in the article I read, and it was surprising to me when I read it because as a civilian I *did* assume that serving in our high-tech military meant you would gain useful skills for our high-tech civilian economy.

What the article said — and I wish I could find it — was that many of those technical skills are either so specific to the military or so narrowly focused that they just weren’t that valuable to employers. Maybe the guys who run the reactor on the sub could find a job in the small and, until recently, shrinking civilian nuclear sector, but civilian uses of sonar are rare (mostly in archaeology and civil engineering I believe) and almost certainly would require other training, education, and/or licensure. Also, there are 5,000 officers and 55,000 enlisted personnel in the U.S. sub fleet, compared to just over 35,000 people in total who work as nuclear engineers, nuclear technicians, or nuclear reactor operators in the civilian labor force, so demand — especially for the 90% of people who work on nuclear subs that are enlisted and may lack degrees — may not be as robust as you think.

In other words, while an employer might value a nuclear submariner for their leadership or persistence or toughness or ability to learn, the actual technical skills of an enlisted sailor, especially one lacking a university degree, could still have little or no civilian value. I think that’s a useful part of the story to look at and perhaps an opportunity for some relatively easy policy fixes (e.g. training programs to bridge military and civilian tech skills) that would lead to better jobs for veterans than “barista.”

In any case, the fact that you assume I am coming from an anti-military, anti-veteran position of complete ignorance and hostility says a lot about your world view.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@stuffisthings Dude is a troll. But good response.

boringbunny (#3,260)

@Eric18 Apparently, saying something positive and factual about the military makes you a troll. I have a friend in the Navy and he’s one of the most mature people I’ve ever met and he has experience in IT now. So yeah, much more employable than most 22-year olds, particularly those without college degrees.

Thank you for your service.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@stuffisthings Ah, responding with anecdotes. Always the best response.

You assume the technical skills enlisted personnel learn are not compatible. Based on what? There are hundreds of jobs that the military does and the vast majority of them have application in the civilian world. And guess what? Just because a bubble head doesn’t do a civilian job that is a mirror of his military job, doesn’t mean his technical skills aren’t compatible.

Making uninformed comments on today’s military based on 70 year old anecdotes is ridiculous, at best. You think medicine, engineering, law, and other professions are the same as they were 70 years ago? Perpetuating these falsehoods a serious problem and I think people should be called out on it.

Your condescending attitude towards me calling you out on your falsehoods and generalizations speaks volume about your character.

Although, you aren’t the only one spouting myths. One of John Kerry’s biggest gaffes was his comment about how if you don’t do well in school you’ll end up in a place like Iraq. Myths about today’s U.S. military run deep among Americans and it shows there is a real divide.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@aetataureate You must be friends with stuffisthings as you also contradict yourself. I’m a troll, yet I had a good response?

Eric18 (#4,486)

@stuffisthings As an addendum,

You think the other “41 guys” in a platoon don’t have any skills that translate? The jobs and responsibilities that NCO’s and junior enlisted have in an infantry or armor platoon are myriad. They also have access to and take advantage of a number of leadership courses and civilian education opportunities to make them more marketable when and if they decide to leave the military. You don’t just get shoehorned into one specific specialty and stay there. If you want, there are opportunities to branch out and give yourself a lot more depth when it comes to acquiring different skillsets.

Eric18 (#4,486)

There are some veterans who need better access to mental health services, but don’t be fooled. Most veterans are healthy, productive members of society and are far better off for their service. There is alot of ignorance in the public (helped by ridiculous portrayals in the media and Hollywood). Seems alot of people believe all veterans come back from deployments as damaged goods, easy to strike out angrily at friends, family, and strangers.


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