Strong Businesses Need Strong Communities
by Neil Pryor, President, PepsiCo Beverages North America, Central Division
At PepsiCo, we strive to be part of a solution to the challenges people face around us, particularly in the communities we call home. One of the locations closest to the heart of our organization is Chicago where we’ve had a presence for more than a century. We maintain multiple work sites across the city including on the South Side. Nearly 5,000 Chicagoans are part of the PepsiCo family here in the metro area, making and selling brands consumers love such as Quaker, Tropicana, Pepsi, Gatorade, Lay’s and Doritos.
Over the years we’ve seen firsthand the challenges that Chicago’s communities face especially with the lack of access to good jobs. So we decided to scale up our efforts and dedicate more resources to increase workforce readiness in Chicago’s historically underserved neighborhoods, hoping to drive change.
Today, PepsiCo is announcing PREP by PepsiCo Stronger Together, a more than $5 million initiative to help increase access and pathways to high-quality careers for young adults from Chicago’s South and West Side communities. PREP, which stands for Pathways to Readiness and Empowerment Program, is a community-informed program that will offer career exposure, paid work experience, skills training and employment opportunities to individuals who have the talent to succeed but lack the access and resources to participate.
Our team at PepsiCo has a lot to offer when it comes to supporting a new generation of talent—and we know that putting our stamp on this program will keep us accountable for the outcomes. To help build out PREP, we turned to the organizations and leaders in the South and West Side communities who have been doing the work for years. We are grateful to Imagine Englewood if (IEi), North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC), Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) and UCAN who all helped inform PepsiCo’s approach to meeting real needs and having a sustainable impact. In launching this new five-year commitment, we are building on our recent program with City Colleges of Chicago that resulted in nearly 50 scholarships and more than 20 students receiving employment or work experience at PepsiCo. Because we are committed to increasing the workforce readiness of diverse young people here in Chicago, we are investing in leading community-based organizations on the South and West Sides so that more Black and Hispanic youth have a foundation for successful careers.
“We are investing in leading community-based organizations on the South and West Sides so that more Black and Hispanic youth have a foundation for successful careers.”
And let me be clear about the benefit of this work to PepsiCo. We’re creating a pipeline of skilled, determined individuals, many of whom we hope will bring their talents to our company. The opportunity to build a pipeline of talent is a great incentive for us to make this program as impactful as possible. Of course, some of the individuals in PREP will eventually take their skills to other companies, and that’s OK, too. In fact, that’s great—a rising tide should lift all boats.
PREP is just one program, and we’ve been inspired by the many companies and organizations that have set an example by investing in Chicago’s communities. We hope today’s announcement will inspire even more business leaders in Chicago to ask themselves how they can make their businesses even stronger by investing in homegrown Chicago talent and providing resources to help Chicago’s youth gain confidence, relationships and readiness to realize their full potential. This is about more than jobs. This is about the future of our Chicago.