Senate hears bill to provide grants for retail-related credentials

Jan 18, 2024
Written by WR Communications


Senator Boehnke’s proposal of SB 5958, will  establish a grant program for low-income students pursuing retail-related micro-credentials. A 2023 report on the Washington retail workforce recommended improving career advancement opportunities with the stacking of credentials toward academic degrees. This bill provides the mechanism and potential funding to make this possible.

At the Senate hearing this week, WR testified in support of SB 5958, highlighting the importance of retail frontline workers. Retail is our state’s second-largest private employer sector, with nearly 400,000 employees. Nationally, 39% of frontline retail workers are people of color, and retail is the 4th largest private employer of immigrants. Retail jobs are often ideal transitional jobs for students or people needing part-time jobs. Retail jobs provide foundational skills and development opportunities for young people or second-chance workers who may not know their desirable career future.

The American Opportunity Index—an annual report that measures workers’ outcomes across 400 companies nationally—confirms the promising opportunities for retail frontline workers. In the category of hiring without requiring degrees, 17 of the top 50 companies are retailers. In the category of promotion from within, eight of the top 50 companies are retailers, such as Costco’s recent appointment of its new CEO, who started as a forklift driver. In addition, the Index shows that nine of the top 50 companies that promote equally regardless of race and gender are retailers.

At the hearing, Senators on the Higher Education and Workforce Committee were curious if the four RISE Up credentials are available in our colleges. WR shared that while some K12 CTE directors offer them, OSPI lists three out of the four credentials as Industry Recognized Credentials with federal funding to support access. This bill will provide funding access for students at the college level and for workers to receive funding and college credits upon completing them.


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