As one of the world's largest employers, Wal-Mart Stores has an obligation to help not only its own workers to achieve upward mobility and satisfaction in their jobs, but the retail industry overall, Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin said in a presentation Wednesday.
The Walmart Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, said this week it had made a $5.5 million grant to the Aspen Institute to support development of business models aimed at advancing career paths for retail workers for all companies. According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry employs 42 million, or one in four American jobs.
"[Walmart] has always been about opportunity, but we want to make it more systematic, and not just about Walmart," McLaughlin said.
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting retail salesperson as the most common job in America, the largest portion of the grant is dedicated to exploring alternative models to provide career pathways for frontline retail workers.
The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program is working in partnership with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce on the Reimagine Retail initiative, which will develop retail sector-specific worker advancement and systems change strategies that could be adapted for communities across the U.S., Walmart said. Through the grant, those organizations will engage in primary and secondary research to develop and document strategies, explore interventions at five sites to determine best practices in the retail sector, and refine implementation guides and tools based on outcomes.
“Developing the next generation of workforce strategies requires a wide range of organizations coming together to play a positive role. We’re excited for the opportunity to work with the Walmart Foundation to improve the systems currently in place in the retail sector,” Maureen Conway, VP of policy programs and executive director of Aspen's Economic Opportunities Program, said in a statement.
“Through our collaboration, we’re working to encourage innovative practices among retailers that are succeeding today by investing in their workers and building their skills. The lessons learned from the retail sector have relevance beyond retail, and will meaningfully contribute to the broader national conversation about the business practices, local programs, and public policies needed to promote a strong economy and provide expanded opportunities for all workers.”
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