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Walmart-funded Chicagoland Retail Sector Center Opens

The Nov. 29 opening of the Chicagoland Retail Sector Center, funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, will enable frontline workers to move faster into better-paying midlevel positions through no-cost training and employment services. The launch will be attended by local officials, business leaders and program participants, in addition to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The foundation’s $10.9 million grant to the partnership to help workforce development boards both around the country and locally was the largest grant yet under the mega-retailer’s $100 million Opportunity initiative, an investment focused on aiding frontline workers in the advancement of their careers, as well as the largest grant the partnership has received so far. As part of the grant, the partnership allocated funding to open the Chicago center, which will aim to boost the economic mobility of workers in retail and adjacent sectors.

Walmart’s recent efforts to empower its own workforce include pay raises; more comprehensive hands-on training, including at dedicated academies; and greater scheduling flexibility.

The retail industry plays a key role in the American economy, supporting one in four American jobs, according to the National Retail Federation.

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