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Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have launched $3 million initiative to help Washington, D.C., residents receive the necessary skills and training to gain employment. The program will provide literacy, customer service and retail training to 2,000 participants.
According to a 2007 report by the District State Education Agency, 37 percent of D.C. residents are functionally illiterate, meaning that they can perform only the simplest literacy tasks. In certain areas of the district, these rates are closer to 50 percent. The D.C. unemployment rate is currently at 10.4 percent.
“Walmart’s urban workforce development pilot initiative in D.C. will help prepare the city's residents with the workplace skills and training they need,” said Washington Mayor Vincent Gray at a recent event held at the city’s Department of Employment Services (DOES) Building. “It is this type of public-private partnership – between the D.C. government, academic institutions, business and community-based organizations, and Walmart – that will provide the opportunity for D.C. residents to be part of the solution in making a better, stronger workforce and community.”
“Whenever you turn on the news, you are reminded that unemployment is a major issue in this country and in this city -- it is a problem that has impacted countless D.C. residents for months and some for several years,” said Walmart Foundation senior director Michelle Gilliard. “This initiative is designed to help thousands of men and women – especially those who have been chronically unemployed – gain the skills they need to be more competitive for jobs and get back to work, whether as Walmart associates or employees at other businesses across D.C. and the region.”
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have joined forces with the Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC) and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region on a doubled-barreled approach to alleviating joblessness in the area:
- CCDC will offer job readiness training to more than 1,000 D.C. residents a Retail Academy will prepare individuals for entry level positions in the retail industry. The programs will also offer English literacy, math, computer literacy and customer service training.
- The Community Foundation will administer an open-grant competition that will re-grant $1.3 million from the Walmart Foundation to local community-based organizations. The funding will back programs created to provide instruction in such subjects English as a second language, computer literacy, math, and customer service training.
All participants in the programs will have access to job recruitment, career counseling and job placement services for customer service opportunities at companies across the district, including future Walmart stores.
Last fall, Walmart unveiled a two-year plan to open four stores, create 1,200 jobs and improve customer access to fresh, affordable groceries in Washington, D.C. At the time, the Bentonvill, Ark.-based mega-retailer said it planned to considerably broaden its commitment to supporting local organizations, especially in the critical areas of workforce development and hunger relief.