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Press Release: San Diego Workforce Partnership Receives Grant from Aspen Institute to Explore Economic Opportunities in Retail Sector

Funding will expand in Reimagine Retail to investigate strategies for collaborating with employers on job quality and worker advancement

SAN DIEGO, CA — The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) announced today that it has awarded a grant of $150,000 to the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) to take part in Reimagine Retail, a project made possible through a $5.5 million grant awarded by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute in 2016. Over a two-year period, SDWP will engage retail employers and explore strategies to improve job quality and support advancement for retail workers.

Workforce development organizations, retail businesses and other partners have potential to collaborate to improve the quality of jobs for workers in entry-level positions, create pathways for advancement in retail and related sectors, and increase employee engagement, productivity, and retention. To explore open questions about how to expand opportunities for working people, leaders in these fields will need to build capacity, experiment with new and innovative strategies, and learn from their experiences.

Through Reimagine Retail, the Aspen Institute EOP, SDWP and five additional partners across the country will investigate approaches that aim to improve job quality and worker advancement opportunities in retail and related sectors.

The Aspen Institute EOP grant supports SDWP’s current Reimagine Retail San Diego efforts, which began in April 2016 with a Walmart Foundation grant through the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. SDWP has partnered with employers throughout San Diego County to provide Customized Training for incumbent retail workers. The program reimburses employers up to 50 percent of the cost of training employees. To partner with and receive funds from SDWP, employers must commit to providing at least one of the following outcomes for their employees who complete training: 1) increase in wages, 2) promotion or 3) change from part-time to full-time. To date, SDWP has worked with 13 employers in Customized Training programs to serve 203 retail employees.

Over a two-year period, EOP will offer SDWP and other partners opportunities to experiment with new ideas, learn from their peers and participate in research activities to explore the outcomes of their work. EOP will share findings from partners’ work broadly to advance promising practices for expanding economic opportunities for workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

“This grant presents tremendous potential to impact retail workers (starting out or established) to grow in their current and future positions, and for employers to invest in required employee skills and increase retention,” says Peter Callstrom, SDWP CEO.

“We have found that learning and evaluation methods that engage program leaders and other stakeholders in the process have been critical to developing a practical understanding of why and how specific initiatives achieve their outcomes, building practical knowledge about efforts that address complex economic and social challenges,” said Maureen Conway, vice president for policy programs and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute. “We are excited about bringing this engagement approach to Reimagine Retail so that the lessons we learn about this emerging area of practice can be applied and adapted in other communities.”

Reimagine Retail is one of several interrelated projects supported by a $5.5 million grant provided by the Walmart Foundation to the Aspen Institute as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Opportunity Initiative, a five-year, $100 million sector-wide effort aimed at strengthening the transferability of skills of the U.S. retail workforce and developing ways to make it easier for front-line workers to advance their careers.  

“Through our collaboration with the Aspen Institute, we aim to further strengthen the retail workforce ecosystem by creating greater opportunities for workers to build long-lasting careers,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “By engaging six local partners in communities around the country, our work together will help ensure that frontline workers have access to the training and tools needed to achieve upward mobility.”

More information about Reimagine Retail and each of the six local partners is available online at as.pn/reimagineretail.

About the San Diego Workforce Partnership

The San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) is the leader for innovative workforce solutions in San Diego County. It funds and provides job training programs that enable adults and youth to develop the skills and knowledge needed for careers that are in-demand. SDWP also provides current and projected labor market research on the region’s workforce trends and key industries. Its vision is to ensure that every business in the region has access to a skilled workforce and that every job seeker has access to meaningful employment. For more information, visit workforce.org.

About The Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit aspeninstitute.org.

The Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) advances promising strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income Americans connect to and thrive in a changing economy. Over its 25 years of work, EOP has focused on expanding individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, to start businesses, and to build assets and economic stability.

Contact: 
Heather Milne Barger
(619) 228-2904 
heathermb@workforce.org