WASHINGTON — The Wal-Mart Foundation has awarded an $800,000 grant to the National Retail Federation Foundation to evaluate the workforce development needs of the U.S. retail industry. The grant could also lead to crafting an industry credentialing career advancement training program for stores and distribution centers.
The NRF Foundation said it plans to collaborate with retailers around the country, including specialty and department stores, big-box retailers, grocery stores and drug stores, to “identify core competencies crucial to the success of front-line associates and determine how the industry can move forward to continue to develop its workforce.”
The grant, part of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s $100 million commitment dedicated to industry workforce development, will give the NRF Foundation the ability to hire a new staff member who will conduct an analysis of the retail industry, fund three research projects and bring together retail leaders to provide input on long-term industry workforce trends.
“At the moment we are evaluating whether there is interest in creating an industrywide credentialing program that could be very broad and encompass many different types of retailers, from grocery stores to specialty stores to mass-retailers. We are really trying to figure out what we have in common as an industry so that our associates can grow in their careers,” Ellen Davis, executive director of the NRF Foundation, said in an interview. “Because retail programs for entry-level associates are built for specific companies, as they should be, the challenge is you may start off as front-line cashier in one company and learn the way that company wants you to do something, stay two or three years and move on, but the new company then has to retrain you. From a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to have to retrain a cashier. Part of this is looking into opportunities to streamline training across industries.”
Part of the NRF Foundations work will also focus on training programs to address changing workforce needs and study effective ways of training employees “at scale.”
The research will also focus on industry challenges in recruiting and retaining store and distribution center teams.
“We are committed to building a program that will advance the careers of millions of current and potential retail workers,” Davis said. “Bringing the entire industry together for this important work will enable us to create a continuous pipeline of talent for retail’s future workforce, and we are grateful to the Wal-Mart Foundation for funding the initial exploration of how businesses can come together to support the millions of people who work in retail.”
Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Wal-Mart Foundation and senior vice president of corporate affairs, said, “The NRF Foundation already has a deep understanding of the challenges facing today’s retail workforce. The Wal-Mart Foundation’s grant will help identify new challenges facing hiring managers and the skills retail workers will need in the next 20 years. Through our work together we’ll be able to develop flexible training modules and clear job pathways that will ultimately increase the economic mobility of the retail workforce as a whole.”