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ERIC Number: ED565730
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Apr
Pages: 25
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 18
Exploring Middle-Skill Training Programs for Employment in the Retail Industry
Kazis, Richard; Molina, Frieda
The retail industry is a huge and growing sector of the U.S. economy, accounting for about 10 percent of the nation's jobs in 2013 and projected to increase by 7 percent between 2012 and 2022. The sheer size of the industry and the number of employment opportunities it affords low-skilled workers led MDRC to explore the potential of the retail sector as a ladder to middle-skill and middle-income jobs. MDRC wanted to understand more about the national experience among nonprofit workforce training providers preparing low-skilled youth and adults for middle-skill jobs in retail, and to assess the potential for expanding these efforts. In 2015, with support from the Walmart Foundation, MDRC conducted a national survey to begin to answer these questions, focusing on programs delivered by community-based nonprofit organizations. This report is based on interviews with more than 70 policymakers, industry representatives, workforce development funders and practitioners, and others. Key findings include: (1) This broad survey of current practice yielded an unexpected finding: few nonprofit workforce training programs that prepare low-skilled workers for careers in the retail industry focus on middle-skill jobs; most instead focus on low-wage, entry-level positions. Community-based training programs targeting middle-skill jobs operate on a relatively small scale; (2) The opportunity exists, however, to create more workforce training programs that prepare low-income individuals for middle-skill job opportunities in the retail industry, if retail employers, particularly large national firms, and nonprofit providers work together to overcome current obstacles and disincentives to developing these training programs; and (3) Factors that constrain nonprofit workforce training providers from developing programs that target middle-skill jobs in retail are varied. The relatively limited opportunity for career advancement in entry-level retail positions dissuade many providers from spending scarce and valuable staff time trying to identify and target higher-wage niches in the industry. Human resource practices in the retail industry present additional challenges. Firms tend not to share information on recruitment and hiring for fear of losing a competitive edge; lean staffing of retail stores makes it hard for providers to find partners with the time to collaborate on the design of well-targeted programs; and retail firms that promote employees internally often train in-house rather than partnering with external providers.
MDRC. 16 East 34th Street 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016-4326. Tel: 212-532-3200; Fax: 212-684-0832; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Walmart Foundation
Authoring Institution: MDRC