Regional retail career conversations focus on frontline workforce investment

Jul 8, 2021
Written by Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services

In June, Washington Retail commemorated Juneteenth by coordinating three retail career strategic conversations” in Moses Lake, Wenatchee and Yakima. Stakeholders at all three regions reached one clear consensus – retail as a viable career option is a perception gap often being overlooked by parents, educators, policymakers, and even some retail employers.

As a result, resources to support retail workforce development have not reached this sector and these strategic conversations were designed to fill the gap. In terms of funding, SkillSource and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges representatives shared the availability of state and federal incumbent worker training grants. Participants were also delighted to learn that the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation’s RISE Up which is widely used in many states and accepted by many retailers, is a program developed for frontline retail employees. The joint effort of the NRF Foundation and Washington Retail to secure RISE Up’s credentialing recognition with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instructions offered good news to both educators and business stakeholders participating in these conversations.

Frontloading retail workforce training for entry-level workers is essential to advancement opportunities for people of color and is especially meaningful to the high population of Hispanic students and workers in Central Washington. Krista Beck, CEO of Jerry’s Auto Supply and Washington Retail Board Member, shared how their bi-lingual store managers rose up the rank from within. For small retailers that struggle with capacity and resources, Beck believes the combination of funding and training resources will make it more plausible to advance equity and job opportunities for minorities.

These eastern state conversations drew participants from economic development, workforce development, college and K12 educators, chambers, downtown associations, and retailers. Their enthusiastic input generated multiple action items. Our priority is clear – to change the perception about retail careers by connecting stakeholders and building success stories to accelerate attention about the multitude of career pathways available in retail.

To inquire more about retail career strategic conversations and Washington Retail’s Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Initiative, please contact Rose Gundersen at 360-200-6452 or [email protected].