Through a grant from Walmart Giving, the National Fund is partnering with three local communities to provide better jobs to retail workers
WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 11, 2017) – Today, the National Fund announced that it is awarding $900,000 in grants made possible through a grant from Walmart to the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative, Central Iowa Works and SkillUp Washington. The grants will be given in $100,000 increments each year for three years to each organization to support their efforts to work with employers, educators and community leaders to expand opportunities in retail and adjacent sectors. These programs will offer additional training to workers, building career pathways and incorporating business strategies that help employees advance into higher positions with an ultimate goal of making a positive impact on regional retail economies.
With more than 600,000 open positions and a current total employment of more than 48 million individuals, the retail and adjacent service sectors have a large footprint in our nation’s economy. Thirty-two percent of first jobs are in retail, and with low barriers to entry and potential for advancement, the National Fund sees the retail sector as a prime opportunity for individuals to learn critical skills and start a career.
“The retail industry is a major employer in the United States, and it is critical that the millions of retail jobs provide 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.”
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.
“At Walmart, we believe positive and lasting change comes from collaboration with others and leveraging local expertise,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President, Programs, Walmart. “Our support of the National Fund is an investment in finding employer-driven innovations in workforce development, especially as it relates to frontline workers. We look forward to seeing the collaborations in Baltimore, Des Moines and Seattle create more opportunities for training and ultimately help retail workers advance more quickly from frontline jobs to roles with greater responsibility.”
Chosen from eight applicants, these communities will be developing innovative approaches tailored to their labor market, workforce system and regional economy.
The Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative is partnering with community-based workforce providers Civic Works, Humanim, and the Choice Program at UMBC to form the Baltimore Retail Industry Workforce Partnership, focused on raising the quality of employment in Baltimore’s retail sector.
Under the Partnership, 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 benefit frontline workers. By lifting up examples of business leaders who demonstrate business practices that benefit employers and employees, the Partnership aims to encourage more area businesses to recognize the value of investing in a skilled, engaged, and sustainable workforce. 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.
Des Moines, Iowa
Central Iowa Works (CIW), an initiative of United Way of Central Iowa, is a workforce intermediary that helps employers recruit and retain skilled workers by creating pathways for job-seekers who need opportunities. CIW will complete an analysis of retail employment in Central Iowa, a sector that currently employs nearly 40,000 workers. Through this analysis, 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 operates in both a large city and rural communities, presenting a unique perspective into those varying retail economies.
SkillUp Washington, a workforce funder collaborative at the Seattle Foundation, is launching the Center for Onboarding and Advancement in Retail (COAR). Dedicated to promoting the skills of frontline workers in the retail sector, particularly opportunity youth, immigrants and refugees, COAR will result in an industry partnership in and around Westfield-Southcenter Mall. The work will be led by Port Jobs, a non-profit workforce development intermediary, in partnership with Educurious, the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, the King County Department of Community of Human Services and the Community Center for Education Results.
Port Jobs 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.
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About National Fund for Workforce Solutions
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is a national network promoting economic opportunity and prosperous communities through investment and innovation. Based in Washington D.C., the National Fund partners with philanthropy, employers, workers, public and private community organizations, and more than 30 regional collaboratives to invest in skills, improve systems, and generate good jobs. The National Fund supports civic and business leaders in promoting evidence-based practices and policies that build shared prosperity. Learn more about the National Fund and its local partners at www.NationalFund.org.