The National Fund for Workforce Solutions has awarded Central Iowa Works a three-year, $300,000 grant to support efforts in Greater Des Moines to expand opportunities in the retail sector. Greater Des Moines is one of three metro areas, along with Baltimore and Seattle, to receive the grants, which were made possible by a grant to the National Fund by Walmart Stores Inc. 

The grants will be given in $100,000 increments each year for three years to each organization to support their efforts to work with employers, educators and community leaders to expand opportunities in retail and adjacent sectors. The programs will offer additional training to workers, building career pathways and incorporating business strategies that help employees advance into higher positions with an ultimate goal of making a positive impact on regional retail economies, according to the National Fund.  

“This project is a tremendous opportunity to help employers improve the quality of their jobs as well as their competitiveness by helping workers advance on a career pathway,” said Fred Dedrick, president and CEO of the National Fund. “By partnering with communities, educators and retailers, we can make retail an even better industry to start or grow a career.”

Chosen from eight applicants nationally, Central Iowa Works is charged with developing innovative approaches tailored to Greater Des Moines’ labor market, workforce system and regional economy. An initiative of United Way of Central Iowa, Central Iowa Works is a workforce intermediary that helps employers recruit and retain skilled workers by creating pathways for job-seekers who need opportunities.

“As the unemployment rate remains low and our retail sector continues to grow, Central Iowa needs to consider new opportunities to create careers within the retail industry,” said Pat Steele, director of Central Iowa Works. “This grant gives Central Iowa Works the opportunity to study the landscape and identify new solutions to meet local challenges, so more central Iowans can pursue careers that lead to financial stability, and employers can attract and retain a strong workforce.”

Central Iowa Works will complete an analysis of retail employment, a sector that currently employs nearly 40,000 workers locally. Through the analysis, the organization will focus on challenges in recruitment, turnover and limited career advancement. Retailers will be provided strategies to improve recruiting, retaining and advancing front-line workers.