National Community College Student Success Organization Teams with the Walmart Foundation to Help Students Earn Retail Credentials

The Achieving the Dream National Reform Network plans expansion and enhancement of pathways to middle-skill retail careers

Media Contact: Lynn Reddy, (240) 450-3830, lreddy@achievingthedream.org

NEWS RELEASE

Silver Spring, MD (February 26, 2015) - Achieving the Dream today announced it will begin enhancing community college pathways that lead to credentials in middle-skill retail careers as one of seven grants made by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation as part of a new workforce strategy, The Opportunity Initiative.

The $1 million grant, which builds on Achieving the Dream’s focus on expanding career pathways within its network, is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $100 million commitment over five years to support programs that help increase the economic mobility for entry level workers to advance their careers in order to promote a stronger workforce.

“Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and Achieving the Dream are seeking to strengthen the nation’s middle class by creating clearer, more direct, and accelerated career pathways to earning market-valued credentials and to better family-sustaining wage jobs,” said Dr. William E. Trueheart, President and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “Within a relatively short time, Walmart’s leadership and its major investment will help thousands of low-income students throughout the nation become more productive citizens.”

According to a 2014 National Retail Federation study, the average yearly wage of full-time retail workers between the ages of 25 and 54 is $38,376. Through increased education, on-the-job training and re-training, of workers with enhanced middle-skills, this national average should increase considerably.

Achieving the Dream believes that successfully preparing students for middle-skill retail careers will require active partnerships between individual community colleges and local employers. These partnerships will enable community colleges to develop efficient, relevant pathways informed by employer needs and input that will provide a larger supply of skilled workers. Specialized advising also will be offered to support and guide students working towards retail credentials.

In addition, the retail pathways offered will be designed to position students to take advantage of on-going opportunities for further training and advanced education.

“We are excited to partner with other foundations, employers, training providers, government bodies and nonprofit organizations to improve career pathways for people in retail and adjacent sectors,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs. “We believe progress requires collective action in the industry to align on the skills required for advancement and develop more innovative, effective, and universally-used training and assessments that recognize on-the-job learning. Ultimately, we aim to increase economic mobility of the U.S. retail workforce as a whole.”

The first phase of the grant will enable Achieving the Dream to conduct an environmental scan of community colleges within the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network to determine the current status of retail pathways, curricula, and collaboration with retail employers.

During the second phase of the grant, four Achieving the Dream Colleges will be selected to strengthen and implement educational pathways to market-valued credentials that lead to middle-skill retail careers. Achieving the Dream will provide technical assistance to the colleges to help guide and monitor strategies as well as to assist with challenges.

Finally, an evaluator will participate throughout the project to enable Achieving the Dream to develop a framework that colleges can use for pathways improvement and employer engagement processes.

Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. Evidence-based, student-centered, and built on the values of equity and excellence, Achieving the Dream is closing achievement gaps and accelerating student success nationwide by: 1) guiding evidence-based institutional improvement, 2) leading policy change, 3) generating knowledge, and 4) engaging the public. Conceived as an initiative in 2004 by Lumina Foundation and seven founding partner organizations, today, Achieving the Dream is leading the most comprehensive non-governmental reform network for student success in higher education history. With over 200 institutions, more than 100 coaches and advisors, and 15 state policy teams - working throughout 35 states and the District of Columbia – the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network helps more than 4 million community college students have a better chance of realizing greater economic opportunity and achieving their dreams.

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