Investing in frontline workforce to commemorate Juneteenth

Jun 17, 2021
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Written by Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services
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Juneteenth is a day when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation declared in January 1863 and the end of the Civil War in April 1865 finally reached Galveston Texas in June of that year.

Commemorating Juneteenth is about taking action to advance justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The 2021 Legislature has just recognized Juneteenth as a state legal holiday by passing HB 1016.

Advancing equity requires intentional shifts of cultures, behaviors, practices, and policies in the workplace, community, and throughout society. Though making this shift may seem overwhelming, it is achievable when everyone looks closely at how they can contribute.

At Washington Retail, we are focused on advancing retail career opportunities for entry-level and incumbent retail workforce under our JEDI Initiative which launched in 2020. This decision was informed by the Advancing Frontline Employees of Color Report which released in January 2020. While people of color account for 34% of the overall retail workforce, 41% hold cashier positions and only 29% are first-line supervisors. Retail is the 4th largest employer of immigrants. When the pipeline of career advancement opportunities grows for incumbent frontline workers, the fast-growing diverse customer base will receive better services.

In April and May this year, we hosted two roundtables with stakeholders at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, with several community colleges that offer the Retail Management Certificate program, along with the NRF Foundation’s RISE Up program. Our next step is conducting “retail career strategic conversations” with stakeholders at the community level to buildup grassroots coordination to advance entry-level retail career training and incumbent workforce opportunities.

We are thankful to have partners such as the Moses Lake Economic Development Council, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Yakima Chamber of Commerce to host this grassroots conversation in their own community this week. Our conversation will explore:

  • The reasons to coordinate retail career development at the community level
  • Current retail training opportunities and programs
  • Options to build a coordinated retail career training
  • Funding and resources available

We are seeking community partners to host a retail career strategic conversation. Please contact me at rgunders[email protected] or 360-200-6452.