Expanding Opportunities in Retail


Launching a New Initiative

The National Fund is partnering with employers, educators and public leaders in multiple communities to expand opportunities in retail and adjacent sectors. This project is a unique local and national collaboration designed to test innovative strategies in specific communities and to spread the most effective methods for improving retail occupations. As its first project explicitly focused on the retail sector, the National Fund will document successful practices and innovative approaches from the three pilot cities and will share this across its network of 33 communities.

“The retail industry is a major employer in the United States, and it is critical that the millions of retail jobs provide a real opportunity for the employees and value for employers,” said Fred Dedrick, president and CEO of the National Fund.“This project is a tremendous opportunity to help employers improve the quality of their jobs as well as their competitiveness by helping workers advance on a career pathway. By partnering with communities, educators, and retailers, we can make retail an even better industry to start or grow a career.”

Made possible through a grant from Walmart, the National Fund announced in October 2017 that it is awarding $900,000 in grants across three years to the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative, Central Iowa Works, and SKillUp Washington to form retail industry partnerships and benefit frontline workers.

Retail in the Network

Read the Retail program’s one-pager for further insight into the focus of each of the participating collaboratives:

Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative :

  • The Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative is partnering with community-based workforce providers to raise the quality of employment in Baltimore’s retail sector.
  • Under the Baltimore Retail Industry Workforce Partnership, which includes Civic Works, Humanim, and the Choice Program at UMBC, workforce experts will aid businesses in overcoming challenges to finding and retaining skilled employees while identifying resources, providing technical assistance, and facilitating peer learning to bene t frontline workers.
  • The Partnership’s comprehensive model–providing industry-driven technical assistance, connecting businesses to workforce training, and promoting socially responsible businesses–will ensure equitable access to family-sustaining careers, strengthen Baltimore communities, and ultimately transform the local retail sector.

Central Iowa Works, an initiative of United Way of Central Iowa:

  • By completing an analysis of retail employment in Central Iowa, a sector that currently employs nearly 40,000 workers, CIW will focus on challenges in recruitment, turnover, and limited career advancement. Retailers will be provided strategies to improve recruiting, retaining, and advancing frontline workers.
  • CIW will focus on challenges in recruitment, turnover, and limited career advancement. Retailers will be provided strategies to improve recruiting, retaining, and advancing frontline workers.

SKillUp Washington:

    • Through the launching of the Center for Onboarding and Advancement in Retail (COAR), an industry partnership will form in and around supporting the skills of frontline works, particularly youth, immigrants, and refugees that work at the Westfield-Southcenter Mall.
    • Port Jobs, a non-profit workforce development intermediary, will conduct an initial regional scan of the retail industry during the first year of the project, and work with COAR partners to identify and develop services to both employers and workers including employment readiness, retention support, and career advancement.

Retail Labor Market Analyses

The Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative, Skill Up Washington, and Central Iowa Works have recently released regional retail labor market analyses as part of their efforts to advance frontline retail workers in their communities.

These three communities are in the second year of a three-year grant tasked with forming industry partnerships in retail and adjacent sectors and working with employer partners to incorporate business practices that enhance organizational competitiveness, productivity, and growth, and result in better jobs for workers. The first step in achieving this goal is to conduct a labor market analysis to better understand the relevance, growth, and opportunities for this sector in their respective regions.

Despite the varied geographies, report findings across the three regions show that retail and adjacent sectors play a critical role in each of these economies, employing anywhere between 11% to 23% of workers. Youth, women, and people of color disproportionally hold entry-level positions with lower pay and limited opportunities for advancement. The reports indicate that much work needs to be done to strengthen career pathways and build a talent pipeline that employers want and need but there are a significant number of job and career pathways available pending strengthened collaboration and innovative strategies. Each of these collaboratives are now engaging employers and workers to address the issues raised by the reports which you can find below.