Neighbor Spotlight: Pepsi Beverages Co.
Neighbor Spotlight | Pepsi Beverages Co. | June 2019
Interfaith Neighbor’s Kula Cafe Hospitality Training Program strives to prepare area young adults with skills and abilities to enter the vibrant hospitality sector growing across Asbury Park, but to also acquire certain soft skills necessary to be a responsible, productive employee. Beginning in 2013, PepsiCo began to donate product to Kula Cafe, enabling it to keep its prices low, but also expressed a desire to engage more deeply with program participants. In response to this desire, “Kula Cohorts,” was established, whereby employees at Pepsi Beverages Company in Ocean Township meet regularly with Kula trainees and share their job and professional knowledge.
That early commitment has not changed, and six to eight members of the PepsiCo team, from sales representatives to delivery supervisors to secretarial staff, come to meet with Kula participants on the first Wednesday of each month, said Kevin Mueller, supply chain associate manager and point man for the PepsiCo team.
“The thing with our corporate ideology is we always give back to the community, in fact, we thrive on it,” Mueller said.
He said it’s often quiet when they start the Cohort meetings, but over time, when everyone remembers each other’s names, and they share their backgrounds, connections are made and the program works.
Kula graduates Tychelle Williams and Ja’Quail McMillian say the Cohorts activities provide good professional support.
“It helps you put your basic skills in perspective of what you want to do in life,” said Tychelle, 20, who graduated from Asbury Park High School in 2016 and plans to begin culinary studies at Brookdale in the fall.
“When they come in, we do different activities,” Ja’Quail explained. “They don’t just look at us. They help you talk about yourself and find things in common. I didn’t know I could just sit down with a stranger and be comfortable talking with them.”
Ja’Quail, 22, a graduate of Academy Charter High School, also wants to pursue a culinary career with Brookdale.
Meg Flores, Interfaith Neighbors’ youth specialist who manages the Kula training program, said the interaction with the PepsiCo team allows Kula’s young people to learn what it’s like to work in a much larger company, and yet, they also see that some aspects of a job at PepsiCo and Kula are the same.
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