The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Launches Chicagoland Retail Sector Center in the Loop

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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Dunni T. Cosey Gay,
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The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership Launches Chicagoland Retail Sector Center in the Loop

 Funded by a Walmart Foundation grant, The Center will provide training and workforce services to job seekers and businesses

(Cook County, Chicago) Nov. 29, 2016 – Today, the Walmart Foundation and Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) were joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to celebrate the launch of the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center, which will offer training to the more than 200,000 retail workers in the Chicago area, making it easier for them to advance their careers.

The Chicagoland Retail Sector Center is the latest step in an effort to increase economic mobility of workers in retail and adjacent sectors in the U.S. In March, The Partnership received a $10.9 million grant from the Walmart Foundation to help Workforce Development Boards both around the country and locally provide education and employment services for retail workers.

"I am pleased the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center is launching and grateful for the grant received from the Walmart Foundation to support this effort," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "This center will provide Cook County residents with the skill set needed for today's jobs in the retail industry.”

As part of the $10.9 million grant, The Partnership allocated funding to open the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center, introducing businesses to no-cost services that will aim to increase economic mobility of workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

“By investing in our workforce we are investing in Chicago’s future,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Chicago leads the nation in corporate relocations because of our talented workforce. Thanks to efforts like the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center we will continue to have the nation’s best-trained workforce while supporting economic opportunities in every part of Chicago.”

The two-year grant to The Partnership is the largest grant announced yet as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $100 million Opportunity initiative—an investment focused on helping front line retail workers advance in their careers both in retail and adjacent sectors. It is also the largest grant The Partnership has received to date.

“At the Walmart Foundation, we know that by working with organizations like The Partnership we can harness our collective power to ensure front line retail workers have the skills, training and education needed to build long-lasting careers in retail and adjacent sectors,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “Chicagoland Retail Sector Center will serve as a powerful resource for more than 200,000 individuals who work in retail in the Chicago area, helping job seekers secure opportunities in the growing retail industry, while providing training and career advancement opportunities for incumbent workers.”

The retail industry plays a key role in the American economy, supporting one in four American jobs (National Retail Federation), which makes driving careers in retail economically responsible. Local Workforce Development Boards around the country, comprised of local leaders and government officials who understand their unique labor market, exist as the primary workforce training system in the U.S. to connect workers and jobs. Until now, they have not focused specifically on retail.

“The goal of this grant is to create clear career paths in retail for workers, providing skills training and new approaches to accelerate career advancement,” said Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of The Partnership. “With the retail industry supporting one in four American jobs, this grant presents a tremendous potential for impact, from entry-level to middle skills jobs.”

The funding for Chicagoland Retail Sector Center will help provide services to both jobseekers and employers such as: 

  • Job readiness training
  • Job placement assistance
  • Customized recruiting and screening
  • Employee retention assistance

The Chicagoland Retail Sector Center officially opened its doors September 1, 2016.

 For more information about the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center visit the Walmart Foundation Grant page.

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