RETAIL NEWS

Walmart grants $4M to the Colorado Workforce Development Council

BY Marianne Wilson

Walmart is partnering with Colorado to empower retail workers.

The discount giant announced more than $4 million in support of the Colorado Workforce Development Council, or CWDC. It is Walmart’s first grant to a state government to support workforce development and will help provide retail advancement opportunities through training and up-skilling.

The grant will allow the CWDC to partner with local workforce development boards across Colorado to launch 10 new retail sector partnerships. Through each of these public-private partnerships, representatives from workforce boards, economic development and education will work with retail employers in the community to design upskilling and training programs that support career advancement for frontline workers and can be a model for workforce development organizations across the U.S. to follow.

The funding comes at a time when there are estimated five million unfilled jobs in the U.S., but 24 million frontline workers who might be able to fill these jobs if given the opportunity to develop advanced training, according to UpSkill America. By improving the quality of skills training and increasing opportunities for advancement, retail jobs can be a powerful engine for economic mobility.

This support for the CWDC is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s five-year, $100 million Retail Opportunity Initiative, a philanthropic initiative aimed at making it easier for frontline employees in retail and adjacent sectors to gain new skills and advance in their careers. To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have funded more than $80 million in grants designed to increase the economic mobility of retail and related-sector workers.

“Our support of the Colorado Workforce Development Council is a further step in our efforts to strengthen the workforce ecosystem beyond Walmart’s walls through collaboration with public and private sector leaders,” said Julie Gehrki, VP of philanthropy at Walmart.

The CWDC and sector partnerships will aim to train incumbent workers through Walmart’s funding, as well as share best practices for building retail career pathways and upskilling workers through the development of a “how-to” guide that will be shared statewide. The statewide expansion builds on the success of the Denver Retail Sector Partnership, convened by the Denver Office of Economic Development. The industry-led partnership focused on workforce as a key issue in 2016 and 2017 and provided skills training, work experience and paid youth pre-apprenticeships through a previous Walmart grant.

Through the Retail Opportunity Initiative, Walmart also recently announced nearly $4 million in grants to the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Code for America Labs, Inc. and edX.org to help provide workers access to education, training and skills to create innovative pathways for lifelong learning.

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