From The Editor | February 2, 2017

On Retail Jobs And Talent

Matt Pillar

By Matt Pillar, chief editor

At last month’s NRF BIG Show, Executive Director of the NRF Foundation and NRF Senior Vice President Ellen Davis gave a talk about the Foundation’s RISEup initiative.

If you’re not familiar with the work of the NRF Foundation, the non-profit group is tasked with building public awareness of the retail industry, developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships, and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.

A bit more than a year back, the Foundation surveyed retail CEOs with a simple open-ended question: name three things that keep you up at night. “We got a lot of answers,” Davis quipped, but the common thread of every response, she says, was jobs.

The Foundation’s conclusion that talent acquisition is the prevailing concern of retail CIOs is far from anecdotal. Davis say that, by the NRF’s own account, some 700,000 retail jobs remain unfilled.

Thus, RISE Up was born under Davis’ direction. It’s a new training and credentialing initiative, built by the NRF Foundation with a goal to help people acquire the skills they need to secure retail jobs and build those jobs into retail careers.

Davis says the first core component of RISE Up is called Retail Industry Fundamentals. The program is designed to give participants “real-world, practical knowledge” with retail tools and technologies, as well as customer service, retail math, and inventory tasks. Students that pass the final exam earn a credential that Davis says will be recognized across retail and service industries.

What really sets Retail Industry Fundamentals apart from similar retail skills accreditation programs are the venues in which the program will be facilitated. Many professional development courses have limited impact because they’re administered in the workplace, which strengthens the workforce from within but does little to recruit new talent. Through partnership with a variety of non profit enterprises and the education system, the Retail Industry Fundamentals course will be delivered in high schools and community-based workforce development groups—where its most needed and most impactful—in addition to within the four walls of a retailer’s training program. Says Davis, “RISE Up helps people get jobs and helps retailers address their recurring talent challenges.”

Davis says the Foundation and RISE Up will expand the credentialing initiative to the front office with programs designed to help retail professionals gain career-advancing skills in data analytics, management and supply chain, to name a few.

One of the cool things about Davis’ work creating a program designed to encourage professional advancement is that her own career trajectory is inspirational. I first met Ellen in 2002, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears news editor and she a new-to-the-NRF media relations manager. Fifteen years later, she’s sharing the main stage with NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, keynote speaker Sir Richard Branson, and some 35,000 global retail executives. There’s no one better suited to lead an initiative designed to cultivate retail’s next crop of standouts.

Learn more about RISE Up.