Westfield Southcenter workers to get career development boost from National Fund grant

The National Fund, the Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program and SkillUp Washington are teaming up to provide retail workers and business in the Southcenter area with skills and support.

The National Fund recently announced $300,000 grant, made possible through support from the Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program, to SkillUp Washington, a workforce funder collaborative at the Seattle Foundation.

The grant – $100,000 a year for three years – will support SkillUp Washington’s work with employers, educators and community leaders to expand opportunities and career pathways in retail and adjacent sectors, with a goal of helping local retail employees advance into higher positions, making a positive impact on the regional retail economy.

SkillUp Washington has launched the Center for Onboarding and Advancement in Retail (COAR), which is dedicated to promoting the skills of frontline workers in the retail sector, particularly opportunity youth, immigrants and refugees, including development of an industry partnership in and around Westfield Southcenter mall.

COAR’s work will be led by Port Jobs, a non-profit workforce development intermediary, in partnership with Educurious, the city of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, the King County Department of Community and Human Services and the Community Center for Education Results.

Port Jobs will conduct an initial regional scan of the retail industry during the first year of the project, and work with COAR partners to identify and develop services for both employers and workers including employment readiness, retention support and career advancement.

“We’re inspired by the National Fund and its partners at the Walmart Foundation. Their leadership in promoting innovative approaches to labor market and economic growth, through this grant, will benefit not just Washington workers but a network of communities across the United States”, said Susan Crane, Executive Director of SkillUp Washington.

With more than 600,000 open positions and a total employment of more than 48 million individuals, the retail and adjacent service sectors have a large footprint in our nation’s economy. In the Puget Sound region more than 200,000 people work in the retail industry, and retail jobs constituted more than 12 percent total postings last year.

“The retail industry is a major employer in the United States, and it is critical that the millions of retail jobs provide real opportunity for the employees and value for employers,” Fred Dedrick, president and CEO of the National Fund, said in the release. “This project is a tremendous opportunity to help employers improve the quality of their jobs as well as their competitiveness by helping workers advance on a career pathway. By partnering with communities, educators and retailers, we can make retail an even better industry to start or grow a career.”

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