The Walmart Foundation and Aspen Institute Announce $5.5 Million Grant to Create Career Pathways for Retail Workers

April 6, 2016

Contact: Tricia Moriarty, Walmart

Contact: Claire Daviss, The Aspen Institute

Supporting Walmart’s Opportunity Initiative, Grant Aims to Enhance Economic Mobility for Retail Workers

BENTONVILLE, Ark. and WASHINGTON, DC, April 6, 2016
– Today, the Walmart Foundation and the Aspen Institute announced a $5.5 million grant to explore business models designed to support workers and sustain a thriving retail industry. The Aspen Institute, known for pioneering new approaches to complex problems, will combine key learnings from a number of its programs with the goal of building a system where retail workers can gain skills and achieve upward mobility.

According to the National Retail Federation, the retail industry supports one in four American jobs, for a total of 42 million jobs, with future growth anticipated. The Walmart Foundation and Aspen Institute are working together to outline clear paths for retail worker advancement, clarify models for workers to transition to adjacent sectors, and improve the satisfaction and engagement of workers remaining in their positions.

“Retail is a critical part of our nation’s economy and an industry we can’t afford to ignore,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “Bringing stronger retail workforce development requires organizations across the spectrum—foundations, training providers, government bodies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector—all working together to improve career pathways for people.”

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting retail salesperson as the most common job in America, the largest portion of the grant is dedicated to exploring alternative models to provide career pathways for frontline retail workers. The Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program is working in partnership with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce on the Reimagine Retail initiative, which will develop retail sector-specific worker advancement and systems change strategies that could be adapted for communities across the United States. Through the grant, the Aspen Institute and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce will engage in primary and secondary research to develop and document strategies, explore interventions at five sites to determine best practices in the retail sector, and refine implementation guides and tools based on outcomes.

The grant also supports the Institute’s 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, led by the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, to support a coalition of over 40 employers, primarily retailers and restaurants, working to hire and retain opportunity youth; the Working in America event series led by the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program; and Upskill America, a growing network of leading organizations, companies, innovators, and funders that seeks to accelerate employer-led workforce pathways for frontline workers to gain the skills they need to advance in the workplace.

“Developing the next generation of workforce strategies requires a wide range of organizations coming together to play a positive role. We’re excited for the opportunity to work with the Walmart Foundation to improve the systems currently in place in the retail sector,” said Maureen Conway, vice president of policy programs and executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program, the Aspen Institute. “Through our collaboration, we’re working to encourage innovative practices among retailers that are succeeding today by investing in their workers and building their skills. The lessons learned from the retail sector have relevance beyond retail, and will meaningfully contribute to the broader national conversation about the business practices, local programs, and public policies needed to promote a strong economy and provide expanded opportunities for all workers.”

The Aspen Institute and Walmart Foundation will host an event discussing the private sector’s role in providing opportunity beyond job creation, featuring Walmart Foundation President Kathleen McLaughlin and the Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson on Wednesday, April 6, at the Institute’s offices in Washington, DC.

Through the Opportunity initiative, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are working with a wide array of organizations across sectors to address a fundamental challenge in America—how to better train and advance workers in the retail and adjacent sectors. In helping workers build new job skills for a changing economy, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are playing important roles to strengthen the workforce system beyond the company’s four walls. To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have donated more than $30 million in grants as part of the initiative.

For more information about Walmart’s Opportunity initiative, visit

About Philanthropy at Walmart
By using our strengths to help others, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation create opportunities for people to live better every day. We have stores in 28 countries, employing more than 2.2 million associates and doing business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. We are helping people live better by accelerating upward job mobility and economic development for the retail workforce; addressing hunger and making healthier, more sustainably-grown food a reality; and building strong communities where we operate and inspiring our associates to give back. Whether it is helping to lead the fight against hunger in the United States with $2 billion in cash and in-kind donations or supporting Women’s Economic Empowerment through a series of grants totaling $10 million to the Women in Factories training program in Bangladesh, China, India and Central America, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are not only working to tackle key social issues, we are also collaborating with others to inspire solutions for long-lasting systemic change. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit


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