According to a statement from the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary, “Labor leaders such as local affiliates of SEIU and AFL-CIO, nonprofits like Goodwill and industry groups such as the Western Association of Food Chains are focusing on expanding access to training and credentials in industries like retail and hospitality that employ millions of front-line workers.”
Cherie Phipps, director of the Retail Management Certificate for WAFC, said the White House recognition “was predicated on the 2015 commitment our partner companies made to support the Retail Management Certificate with specific enrollment and completion goals.”
President Obama, during his State of the Union address in January, called on employers to equip their front-line workers with the skills they need to advance their careers. This “Upskill Initiative” is designed to help workers of all ages earn a shot at better, higher-paying jobs, even if they do not have a higher education.
Phipps said, “It is quite an honor to have our nation’s capital shine such a spotlight on the Retail Management Certificate that you all have worked so diligently to build. I am grateful for your tireless efforts to help build education depth throughout our industry.”
WAFC’s Retail Management Certificate, offered through a number of community colleges across the nation, helps workers at all levels advance their careers. In January this year, WAFC set a goal for 2016 of 2,000 workers enrolled in the certificate program and 1,300 graduates, with the help of new and existing partner companies. WAFC has developed strategies around that goal, including a tuition scholarship incentive; recognizing the certificate as a preferred qualification for hire or promotion; and awarding a cash honorarium for successful completion.
Collectively, WAFC’s partner companies represent more than 400,000 employees working directly in the retail grocery industry. Each partner company has a personalized enrollment and completion goal, to directly impact at least 2,000 workers by 2016, and possibly many more, according to WAFC.
“I started working in retail at age 16. By the age of 25 I was well experienced in clerk level roles, working for various retail companies in (California) and (Washington) as a meat clerk. I was making around $13/hour, 20 hour/week ($260 per week). I knew I wanted more out of working in retail, and there must have been a way to achieve greater success, going beyond clerk level pay and responsibilities and transition into a leadership role. That’s when I discovered the WAFC Retail Management Certificate program. Since completing the Retail Management Certificate program in 2013, I have been promoted twice. I am now in my company’s retail management ranks, earning $23/hour at 40 hour/week ($920 per week), with greater responsibilities and even more potential to progress in my career, thanks all to the knowledge and confidence the WAFC Retail Management Certificate program has given me. It’s an excellent Certificate program that has helped catapult me ahead in a successful retail career.
“What you folks are doing at the WAFC is something special, and if continued, it will change the retail industry for the better, for many generations to come.”
The certificate program has its own website: RetailManagementCertificate.com.
Concrete steps being taken toward ‘Upskilling’
More than 100 employers that employ more than five million workers—including 30 Fortune 500 companies—were recognized at the Upskilling event, over which VP Joe Biden presided.
These employers, according to the White House statement, are making “concrete commitments to empower front-line workers across their businesses, in partnership with 30 national labor unions, and accelerated by new innovative data and tools.”
Many of these employers are expanding access to apprenticeships and on-the-job training; increasing uptake of training opportunities by making them cheaper, easier and faster; and clarifying what skills workers need to get ahead within their companies.
“More on-the-job training and apprenticeship opportunities, the ‘gold-standard of upskilling’ that help workers get ahead without having to leave their jobs to go back to school full-time,” are called for, the White House said.
Thirty national and local labor unions and major foundations also are working with employers to expand access to best-practice training strategies like apprenticeships, and targeting small businesses and industries like retail and hospitality where there is an opportunity to help millions of low-wage workers earn more based on better skills.
To accelerate these efforts, private sector and tech leaders are developing efficient tools that disseminate best practices for employers and workers, so that more can get the information they need.
“When all Americans have the opportunity to master new skills, contribute their full talents to our economy, and be rewarded for it, our businesses, our families and our communities thrive,” according to the White House statement. “The President has laid out an agenda designed to increase wages for workers across the country, through steps that range from providing tax relief to working families, increasing the minimum wage, improving access to higher education and investing in areas that support well-paying jobs like infrastructure, research and clean energy.
“The Upskill Initiative is a public-private effort that is a critical part of that agenda, meant to create clear pathways for the over 20 million workers in front-line jobs who may too often lack the opportunity to progress into higher-paying jobs.”
The White House also noted that Fortune 500 companies like Gap Inc., Capital One, McDonald’s and Walmart are expanding partnerships with online educational organizations like LearnUp, Udacity and Cengage Learning to enable millions of front-line workers to earn credentials and develop the skills required for more senior roles.
Companies like PepsiCo are “setting internal goals to staff a certain percentage of their management and supervisory jobs from their front-line workforce, and leveraging on-the-job training programs to help meet those targets; others, like Orange Research are setting a goal for the percent of working hours that will be devoted to training.”
Thirty major employers are working with the Department of Labor to launch a new employer-to-employer outreach program called LEADERs (Leaders of Excellence in Registered Apprenticeship Development, Education and Research) that helps business leaders learn from other businesses how to launch a successful Registered Apprenticeship program. Later this year, the Department of Labor will bring together major employers on expanding the use of Registered Apprenticeship to strengthen U.S. companies while providing workers with pathways to the middle class and beyond, according to the press statement.
Also, Deloitte Consulting and The Aspen Institute are launching “A Guide to Upskilling America’s Frontline Workers” that aims to deliver a structured resource to help businesses strengthen existing or jumpstart new upskilling initiatives.
Among the Administration’s plans for fiscal 2016, the president is calling on Congress to launch a $2 billion Apprenticeship Training Fund for states and regions to adopt comprehensive strategies ranging from economic incentives to stronger links to technical colleges to double the number of registered apprentices in America over the next five years.
The White House invites employers, unions and technologists to share what they are doing to support the Upskill Initiative at Wh.gov.