Calgary Employer Forum

Lessons From Some of the Best Youth Hiring Companies

 In Resources

In 2020, around 2.1 million persons ages 15-25 were employed in Canada. Opportunity Youth often face many challenges in landing that first job or maintaining it (further discussed here). While many organizations hire youth, not all organizations who hire youth are equal. There are organizations who intentionally create workplaces that attract and retain youth. 

Two standout youth hiring organizations are McDonalds and Starbucks. No matter where you are, you will always see youth working in these locations. For many of them it is their first job. McDonalds and Starbucks are proud of the fact that many of their employees are youth. They pride themselves in knowing that they are creating workplaces that put the youth first. This information can easily be found on their website. They put it right and center for anyone (especially youth) to see.

Approximately 50% of McDonald employees are under 18. In 2016, they were also one of the 100 top employers for youth in Canada.  At Starbucks, around 73% of staff are under 24. Starbucks is committing 10% of all store hires to Opportunity Youth. Below are a few examples of what these two companies are doing that make them stand apart:


  • Offer free uniforms
  • Food discounts at all locations (50% meal)
  • Scholarship program
  • Believes that education is first
  • Flexible and consistent hours
  • Structure paid training of hands-on and classroom
  • Committed to promoting from within
    • Pathway to management
    • Management development program


  • Hourly wages above minimum wage.
  • 30% discount at all locations and free drink when on shift
  • Up to $1000 tuition reimbursement
  • Open-source education on My Learning and Starbucks Global Academy
  • Employees working at least 20 hours a week get full benefits, perks, and other discounts.
  • Flexible hours
  • Access to over 2000 discounts on brand and big life purchases through Life Works
  • COVID Related Pay: self-isolation, vaccine shot, vaccine side-effect, and temporary COVID sickness

What Can We Learn?

  • Remember that youth have other responsibilities outside of employment. Be flexible and consistent with their schedules. Give schedules out in advance as soon as you can.
  • Ensure that youth are fully prepared to complete their responsibilities when they start. Have thorough and structured training that is a combination of classroom, job shadowing, and hands-on.
  • Support their educational and career path. Provide different (internal/external) training opportunities, or simply be understanding when it comes to their education.
  • Creating different perks and benefits beyond the pay cheque. They do not have to be major benefits but things such as team building, store discounts, company swag, free uniforms, etc.
  • Promoting a positive and welcoming work environment. (Resource)

For more information about working with Opportunity Youth, connect with the Calgary Employer Forum.

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