Baristas Training Program

Providing support, guidance, and training to youth for employment at Starbucks.

  • Employment
  • Youth
  • Youth/Adult 16 - 30

Available in Surrey Vancouver

The award-winning Baristas Training Program is a unique partnership with Starbucks and BladeRunners. It has been recognized at numerous provincial and national conferences and has received awards for teamwork and innovation in partnerships. The Baristas Training Program provides support, guidance, and training for at-risk youth, helping to prepare them for employment and increase their health and well-being, thus reducing poverty in the Lower Mainland.

Program Features

Participants in the Baristas Training Program receive:

  • Five weeks of life and employability workshops
  • Six certificates: First Aid, WHMIS, FoodSafe, Serving it Right, SuperHost, and Cashier Training
  • Four weeks of work experience at a local Starbucks store (six-hour shifts, four times a week)
  • Personal job search workshops and a graduation ceremony
  • Transportation support
  • Training allowance
  • Work-experience clothing
  • Lunches and snacks

Program Details


Youth ages 16 through 30 at the time of intake/selection who are:

  • Not full-time students
  • Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or persons who have been granted conventional refugee status in Canada
  • Legally entitled to work according to the relevant provincial/territorial legislation and regulations
  • Not previous participants of a BladeRunners Canada – British Columbia Labour Market Agreement funded program
  • Not recipients of a post-secondary degree from a Canadian post-secondary institution
  • Not currently receiving employment insurance (EI) or in receipt of EI benefits
  • In need of assistance in order to overcome employment barriers



    Fraser Regional Office
    10328 Whalley Boulevard
    Surrey, BC V3T 4H4

    View Map

  • Vancouver

    Midtown WorkBC Employment Services Centre
    110 East 3 Avenue
    Vancouver, BC

    View Website


The Baristas Training Program is dedicated to providing youth, who have employment barriers, with employability skills and a dynamic work experience in a Starbucks store. This training helps participants to build their skills and self-esteem, and transition into exciting careers in the hospitality sector.


Barista Training Program Alumni

Blending caffeine and determination to turn struggling youths’ lives around

Being a female Aboriginal youth in B.C. can be tough, but Tawnie Joe, 29, is percolating her way to success. She is the mother of cherubic five-year-old Eric Wallace who smiles broadly, and often, revealing a front-toothless grin. Eric is happy. At this stage in his development, he is unable to understand his mother’s difficult life, and Joe does what she can to shield him from it. He is her motivation for everything.

Tawnie Joe - Barista GradOn December 28, 2016, Joe began working at Starbucks in Vancouver’s City Square as a barista. After eight months, she was promoted to shift supervisor. Recently, she won a Store Partner of the Quarter Award that recognizes one employee’s significant contribution to his or her store. Joe seems to be steeping in success, but she says that some days are better than others.

Joe suffers from depression and sometimes has suicidal thoughts. This, she thinks, is a result of her past. Her mom and her mom’s then partner were alcoholics.

“They were always drunk,” she says. “They were always throwing parties.”

Eventually, her mom lost her job as a substitute teacher because she was caught drinking in public. Joe’s mom’s partner would physically abuse her mom, and her mom’s partner’s son used to sexually abuse Joe. Joe would run to her aunt’s house, one block away, to get help.

“It was one long block I had to run,” she says, and she ran it frequently.

Joe and her mom eventually went to a safe house. The safe house gave them a house, but Joe’s mom returned to her partner and they lost the house. Then in seventh grade, Joe started drinking her mom’s alcohol at school, and later she turned to marijuana to numb the pain.

Joe is Lil’wat First Nations. She spent her childhood years growing up in Pemberton living on a reserve. She had typical big dreams as a child; she wanted to be a lawyer.

“I wanted all the bad guys to go away,” she says.

When Joe was in high school, her and her mom moved often in her mom’s attempt to find a suitable partner. They landed in the City of Vancouver.

“I saw the res life and then I saw the city life,” Joe says. “There’s no jobs out there. People have to go to camps or the city to survive.”

In the city, Joe graduated high school and then worked random dead-end jobs. In her mid-twenties she had Eric. Shortly thereafter, she realized she wanted a better life for herself and Eric. Not wanting to rely on her partner for money all the time, she applied to the Baristas Training Program offered by Pacific Community Resources Society in partnership with Starbucks and BladeRunners. The Baristas Training Program is an award-winning program that prepares at-risk youth for employment at Starbucks by providing them with support, guidance and training. Joe knew she needed a new set of skills to attain a more sustainable job, and she knew she liked coffee a lot.

“Ever since I quit drinking about three years ago,” she says, “coffee’s been my go-to.”

So she applied and was accepted into the Baristas Training Program. During her time in the program, Judy Crooks, 63, was the program coordinator, and Tomoko Kajiyama, 34, was the program facilitator and job coach. Crooks and Kajiyama say that when Joe first started the program she had a nurturing, motherly quality about her.

“She took care of others,” Kajiyama says, “and she was the first to help with lunch prep and end-of-the-day cleaning.”

Crooks adds that Joe isn’t afraid to step out of her comfort zone; when she commits to something, she sees it through.

Joe explains that finding a babysitter was the biggest challenge during the program, but she went on to say that she experienced a number of other challenges, too. She slipped once and cracked her ribs; Eric got so sick that he had to be hospitalized; and her father and grandmother passed away within one week of each other. Her mother passed away, too. Yet still she showed up for her work placement at Starbucks in Vancouver’s City Square, where she continues to work.  

Karen Zaharuk is Joe’s manager. Zaharuk says that Joe communicated a desire to become a store manager early on in her Starbucks career. Zaharuk says that Joe has stayed focused on that goal, despite a year of personal loss, because she knows what will happen to her life and her son’s life if she gives in. Joe continues to use the skills she learned in the Baristas Training Program to keep her on track to achieve her goals.

“She uses the resources available to her,” Zaharuk says. “Everything from childcare to nutrition advice to grants for work shoes, and of course Starbucks benefits. “She used grief counselling when her mother passed away and continues to reach out for help and support when she needs it instead of retreating from life.”

For some people, success comes easy. For others, especially marginalized groups, success can be harder to achieve. For female Aboriginal youth, it is harder yet. According to the 2013/2014 First Nations Regional Early Childhood, Education and Employment Survey (FNREEES), more than 60 per cent of First Nations youth felt they were not ready to enter the labour market because they did not have the in-demand skills needed for employment. Furthermore, in 2015, the FNREEES found that 25 per cent of First Nations women were unemployed, with unemployment being highest for youth. With determination and persistence, Joe defied the odds against her.

Now, Joe’s aunt and uncle help out with Eric. They pick him up from school and take him to their house until Joe can pick him up. They are also raising their three grandchildren, so Eric has lots of time to socialize and play. Though some days Joe comes home emotionally and physically drained, she never wants Eric to see her struggle. Her life’s mantra is to never give up.

“It might be hard one day,” she says, “but the next day will be a new day.”

tawnie joeTo all the struggling youth out there, Joe’s advice is to always choose a positive thought, and then put it out into the universe, because life is sweet, like a salted caramel mocha with one pump mocha and one pump white mocha — her drink of choice.


Note: Tawnie was also featured in a Starbucks’ #GiveGood video. Check out the video by clicking here. 



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Contact Information

Fraser Regional Office
10328 Whalley Boulevard, Surrey
Phone: 604-951-4821

How To Apply

To successfully apply for the Baristas Training Program, youth must submit an application accompanied by a cover letter and resume, and attend a scheduled individual interview. Only 10-12 applicants will be accepted per cycle. Some will be placed on a waitlist and others will be referred to other community resources to further develop skills. The cover letter should describe why the applicant would be a good fit for the program.

Vancouver Information Session Date:

  • March 14, 2018, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 110 East 3rd Avenue, Vancouver Midtown ESC (WorkBC)
  • ​April 4, 2018, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 110 East 3rd Avenue, Vancouver Midtown ESC​ (WorkBC)

Surrey Information Session Dates:

  • March 9, 2018, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 10328 Whalley Boulevard, Surrey, Fraser Regional Office
  • ​March 16, 2018, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 10328 Whalley Boulevard, Surrey, Fraser Regional Office
  • April 4, 2018, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 10334 152a Street, Surrey, Suite #202, Fleetwood Guildford ESC (WorkBC)




Surrey at Fraser Regional Office - 10328 Whalley Blvd.

Start Date April 9, 2018

Application Deadline N/A

Vancouver Midtown ESC - 110 East 3 Avenue

Start Date April 16, 2018

Application Deadline N/A

Apply for the next Baristas Training Program by submitting your resume and cover letter to