Walmart Foundation is Working to Strengthen Career Pathways Across the U.S.

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Walmart Foundation is Working to Strengthen Career Pathways Across the U.S.

Funding to 10 Workforce Development Boards are part of $10.9 million grant awarded to The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 10:05am

CONTENT: Press Release

Walmart Newsroom | Walmart Foundation Aims to Increase Economic Mobility in Growing Retail Industry Through an Investment That Strengthens Career Services Programs Nationwide

BENTONVILLE, Ark., September 7, 2016 /3BL Media/ – As a next step in an effort to increase economic mobility of workers in retail and adjacent sectors in the U.S., the Walmart Foundation today announced 10 Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) across the country will receive funding from The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership). The Partnership selected 10 WDBs to collectively form and implement new models of career services specific to retail—models that will serve as best practices for the approximately 550 WDBs in the U.S. that already provide services, such as career coaching, soft skills training, specialized skills training and referrals to other resources.

The funding is part of a $10.9 million grant the Walmart Foundation made to The Partnership in March 2016. The two-year grant program is the largest investment to date as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Opportunity initiative, which aims to increase the economic mobility of workers in retail and adjacent sectors by working with nonprofits, educational institutions and government agencies to make it easier for frontline workers to move faster into middle skills roles.

According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry supports one in four American jobs—a total of 42 million.

“The advancement of our nation’s workforce is imperative and investments made by the Walmart Foundation and The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership in our national network of WDBs will create a significant ripple effect that will help boards across the country make informed, smart decisions about how to invest in workforce strategies that align with the needs of their local retailers,” said Ron Painter, president of the National Association of Workforce Boards. “The models this network creates will advance the nation’s workforce by supporting incumbent workers, fulfilling employer needs and empowering thousands of working Americans to climb the economic ladder.”

A paper authored by the Harvard Business School, Accenture and Burning Glass refutes the retail sector's reputation as a dead-end industry, explaining how entry-level jobs can lead to supervisory roles or parallel pathways within adjacent sectors with high occupational demand and high wages. 

“As one of the largest provider of jobs for the American workforce, the retail industry presents many opportunities for workers to grow and thrive,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. "Through our work with The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, we are helping ensure that retail workers have the skills, training and education needed to build long-lasting careers."

“The need to provide career pathways for workers to advance in the retail sector is a national challenge,” said Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of The Partnership. “The Partnership is excited to work with Workforce Development Boards from across the country to demonstrate the great strides we are making to implement new models and strategies focused on growing the retail workforce.” 

The 10 WDBs receiving funding from The Partnership will provide a variety of services to job seekers, including:

  • Job readiness training customized to the retail sector, including helping jobseekers acquire the "soft skills" that are critical for workplace success such as teamwork, leadership, communication and conflict resolution.
  • Specialized skills training.
  • Job placement assistance, resume writing assistance and interviewing skills workshops.
  • Post placement services to promote job retention.  

Among the services the WDBs will offer employers are:

  • Serving as a point of contact for retail employers in the area for recruiting and training opportunities, including career tracks such as sales, customer service, logistics, operations, merchandising/buying and management.
  • Incumbent worker training.
  • Customized recruiting and candidate pre-screening and assistance in writing job descriptions for new positions.
  • Employee retention assistance and improving the supply of qualified job candidates. 

The 10 WDBs selected by The Partnership to receive grants in the first year of the two-year grant program include:

Workforce Development Board

Grant Amount

Estimated Number of People Who Will Benefit 

Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, Millersville, Md.


 200 participants

Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, Inc., Monticello, Minn.


 200 participants

Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department, Los Angeles, Calif.


325 participants

Denver Workforce Development Board,

Denver, Colo.


325 participants

Metro North Regional Employment Board, Cambridge, Mass.


200 participants

Center of Workforce Innovations (Northwest Indiana Workforce Board),

Valparaiso, Ind.


200 participants

Philadelphia Works, Philadelphia, Pa.


325 participants

San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego, Calif.


325 participants

The WorkPlace, Bridgeport, Conn. (Southwestern Connecticut Regional Workforce Development Board)


200 participants

Workforce Snohomish, Everett, Wash.


200 participants

In addition to providing greater opportunities for retail workers in these communities, this work will have large-scale impact for potentially thousands of workers as key learnings and new models for training and development are shared and may be implemented by WDBs across the U.S.

In February 2015, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation committed $100 million over five years to strengthen the skills of the broader U.S. workforce, by funding programs to create career paths in retail and related industries and training thousands of workers outside of Walmart. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are working with outside experts to develop a system of industry-recognized curricula and credentials for workers so they can gain new skills, training and education to grow their careers. To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have given grants totaling $39 million as part of this Opportunity initiative.

For more information about the Walmart Foundation’s grant to The Partnership, visit To learn more about Walmart’s Opportunity initiative, visit

About Philanthropy at Walmart
By using our strengths to help others, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation create opportunities for people to live better every day. We have stores in 28 countries, employing more than 2.3 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. We are helping people live better by accelerating upward job mobility and economic development for the retail workforce; addressing hunger and making healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality; and building strong communities where we operate and inspire our associates to give back. Whether it is helping to lead the fight against hunger in the United States with $2 billion in cash and in-kind donations or supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment through a series of grants totaling $10 million to the Women in Factories training program in Bangladesh, China, India and Central America, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are not only working to tackle key social issues, we are also collaborating with others to inspire solutions for long-lasting systemic change. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit  

Keywords: Philanthropy | Business & Trade | Business Ethics | Corporate Social Responsibility | Diversity & Human Resources | Jobs | National Retail Federation | Retail | Sustainability Business | Sustainability Professionals | Sustainable Enterprises

CONTENT: Press Release