Do stores have a place as vocational tools inside high schools?
New Orleans-based PJ’s Coffee is offering franchise opportunities to open up coffee shops inside high schools with the foremost purpose of providing vocational skills to students.
Fast Company profiled a café inside Louisiana’s Walker High School and said PJ’s Coffee has “about half a dozen” open on public and private high school campuses.
In its third year in operation, the Walker High School location is managed by one of the school’s special needs teachers and mostly staffed by special education students who earn credits as part of elective study skills classes in lieu of pay.
With lessons ranging from cashier and barista to manager, the curriculum includes management skills, customer-service relations, time management and budgeting as well as critical people skills. In the morning, parents can place orders made through the chain’s apps to be received when they drop off their kids. Faculty and students are customers inside the school.
PJ’s Coffee said in a profile, “By the time these students graduate and enter the real world, they will have more work experience than most kids their age.”
PJ’s Coffee is just one of several businesses inside Walker High School co-managed by students and business professionals. Others include a Papa John’s, a Nike store, a paint and body shop, a conference center, a sports medicine clinic and a credit union. The work experience is seen as particularly beneficial to students not heading to college.
The school’s principal Jason St. Pierre, told The Advocate, “These partnerships offer our students real-life learning opportunities and valuable experience they can parlay into an immediate career or use to further their knowledge and skill-level for additional training in one of these career pathways.”
For PJ’s Coffee, the economic returns are minimal. The high school locations pay a discounted franchise fee and revenue potential is limited by restricted access inside high schools.
Tori Bermond, PJ’s Coffee franchise development manager, told Fast Company. “What matters to us is the learning component, and being able to provide these kids with options and the ability to learn these skills at a young age that they can then go implement at their first job or as their career.”
- Why this coffee chain is opening stores in high schools – Fast Company
- Walker High opens PJ’s Coffee shop, teaching job skills to students with special needs – The Advocate
- Walker High School welcomes four businesses to new campus – The Advocate
- How PJ’s Coffee is making a name for itself on High School Campuses – PJ’s Coffee
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of retailers opening stores inside high schools to provide class-accredited business skills to students? Do you see a path to profitable growth?
Join the Discussion!
18 Comments on "Do stores have a place as vocational tools inside high schools?"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation
This is a terrific program! College isn’t for everyone and so offering class-accredited business skills to high schools students will provide them with skills that they can immediately apply. While I’m not sure this will pay out for PJ’s Coffee per se, I think retailers and brands should seriously consider creating or participating in programs like this.
Chief Operating Officer, Bloo Kanoo
Whatever happened to working in the cafeteria? I paid for lunch that way in elementary school. No one will argue that giving business skills to kids, especially our special needs kids, is a fantastic idea. However, there should be a line between business skills and consumerism. Do we really need to sell Nike shoes in schools? I’m not sure I care as much about the profitable growth of Nike, PJ’s or Papa John’s as I do about the impact of targeted marketing on our kids in their schools. And yes, I have kids so I know that they’re walking billboards and have handheld, smart billboards that sometimes double as phones.
President/CEO, The Retail Doctor
I love this on so many levels: that a franchise saw the possibility of getting their brand in front of the target market, they give the students real-world experience and getting young people to see the opportunities in established businesses — not just side hustles.
Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations
It’s a terrible business decision but a great community-service opportunity. I’m not sure how much the average student will get out of this, but certainly those who are learning-challenged may be getting a major boost.
President, Graff Retail
I LOVE this initiative! Let’s face it, the school system is, while not completely broken, is in need of significant repairs. The opportunity to provide real life skills, training and experiences to kids is nothing short of amazing. There should be more schools like Walker High School.
Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors
I see this as an opportunity to give back to the community while improving brand perception and creating a path to retail management. It’s a viable alternative for those not seeking higher education. I believe profitability is less important than the brand equity a retailer builds by partnering with the community, it increases the lifetime value of their customer base. That being said, the students should be paid at least minimum wage for any of these jobs. It’s only fair.
Principal, Retail Technology Group
Teaching real-life skills to middle and high school students has been and continues to be a good idea. However, rather than introduce brand names in the schools (free advertising?), we should encourage an endowment or a sponsorship of courses for which students will register, in which these skills can be taught (I can think of my high school days where auto mechanics, cooking, wood shop, metal shop and many other courses were given). Retailing could be another, sponsored by one or more retailers.
Mobile Trends Analyst, Apptopia
I wonder if PJ’s could increase returns by developing a path that incentivizes students to continue on with the company at a real location after graduation and then purchase a franchise down the line. The latter would be conditional on continued training and education, of course. Talent — especially in management — is invaluable for any business’s growth.
Director, Retail Strategy, CI&T
This is super smart for the brands in that they’re building quite a bit of positive brand association here. However, can’t many of these same skills be taught by opportunities within the school/school programs themselves? Many of our school systems are already on the verge of collapse because of the rate at which teachers are leaving the profession. While I understand the students couldn’t become the teachers, these stores are taking away from them assisting the teachers, who are already extremely limited in bandwidth. Overall, it’s great for the kids, great for the brands, but I’m not sure this does anything to support the actual education system, in fact, it may take away from it.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
A dose of reality. I don’t see any reason why it would disrupt anything, while at the same time giving students a dose of real life realities in the working world.
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
This is a much-needed endeavor. Back in the day, there were vocational courses to help prepare students who weren’t destined for college. Over time, as college became the only education for objective for parents, those not going to college were left with little skills or experience. Those courses were dropped.
I don’t care that these initiatives are sponsored. They are valuable to those who participate. It may be the only way to get them into the curriculum.
Content Marketing Strategist
This is a brilliant public-private partnership that enriches students with real-world experience to build work and life skills. Hope this concept inspires more student-centric training opportunities.
Professor of Food Marketing, Haub School of Business, Saint Joseph's University
A terrific concept. What may be lost in the article is the focus on special needs students who gain invaluable life skills education. A win win for everyone. I tip my hat — or perhaps my cup — to PJ’s Coffee.
Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates
Both of my kids worked at Starbucks in high school, and discovered a real sense of competence and accomplishment. Working during high school also provides experience with working with adults as peers. Everyone wins.
President and CEO, Mpro5 Inc.
I like it — why not! Hands-on training can help set up some enthusiasm for High Schoolers to get jobs in retail for the summer. THAT used to be something, and is not so much of something now. I think this is definitely a “business development” type of program. Do it!
Stores not only have a place as a vocational tool inside high schools. They have a place as a learning experience for all high schools and all high school students. The lesson that can be learned from working in a retail or restaurant job far surpasses many of the life skills that will be learned in a math or science class.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Not much: you’re inevitably going to run into political problems, ranging from conflict-of-interest charges to someone not liking something about the franchisor. (Recall Mark Twain’s thoughts on school boards….) I certainly don’t object to students learning business skills, but there are plenty of businesses that operate outside school grounds and hours where they can do so.
Principal, Clearbrand CX
Many school boards have cut or long abandoned funding behind vocational opportunities like auto shop, woodworking, metal, electronics, and their own school store. Allowing businesses in to train them can be a win-win. Business partnerships will never be a perfect arrangement, as they are led by their own motivations. But students deserve to experience an array of options toward what they are interested in, how a business works, and in getting ready for the workforce.