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National Immigration Forum Receives $1.8 Million Grant from the Walmart Foundation to Support English Language Training Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a $1.8 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, retail sector employees will begin to receive contextualized English language training through a project of the National Immigration Forum, Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce. Employees of Kroger, Publix and Whole Foods are taking part in this important opportunity to gain the skills needed to advance their careers.

Stemming from a previous grant from the Walmart Foundation to improve the economic mobility of limited-English proficient entry-level retail workers, this is the second year for this first-of-its-kind retail industry contextualized English training. The $1.8 million funding will be used to refine and scale the curriculum based on an analysis of the first-year program, build a smartphone app and engage employers to include English language training as part of their core training budget.

The retail sector has one of the highest levels of limited-English-proficient workers, at nearly 1.5 million, approximately half of whom are women. Leaders within the retail sector are recognizing the profound impact that improved access to educational opportunities can have on advancement, retention, improved work quality and economic success. This program creates a scalable, sector-wide contextualized English language learning program that will help retailers build stronger career pathways for their employees.

Building on the success of year one, during which 17 percent of participants received promotions after just 12 weeks of English language training, the project continues to engage employees who seek to advance their career pathways. In addition, the year one results, collected and analyzed by RTI International, found that every participant improved their English proficiency ability by at least one level and more than 80 percent of the participant’s managers said that store productivity increased because of the training.

Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce is designed for the nation’s retail workers who have limited English language proficiency, which can hinder businesses’ competitiveness and keep employees from advancing to more skilled and better-paid jobs.

“With the retail industry supporting 42 million American jobs, we recognize that we have the ability to foster greater economic mobility for millions of working Americans,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart. “By working across sectors and investing in organizations like the National Immigration Forum, we hope to create clear paths for advancement in retail for thousands of workers with limited-English proficiency, providing skills training and new approaches to accelerate career advancement.”

The $1.8 million grant from the Walmart Foundation is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $100 million Opportunity Initiative, a five-year, sector-wide, effort aimed at strengthening the transferability of skills of the U.S. retail workforce and making it easier for front line workers to advance to middle-skills jobs.

Retail is the nation’s largest private employment sector, and it employs about 11 percent of all limited-English-proficient workers. With the workforce more diverse than ever, this project is an effort by the Walmart Foundation and the National Immigration Forum to aid in the advancement of this segment of the retail sector workforce.

“Our nation’s immigrant workforce remains a vital component in America’s economic success,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “The contextualized English language classes have already shown an immense impact on the lives, careers and families of employees and all American workers. Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce is a project that offers real solutions.”

The National Immigration Forum’s New American Workforce program first launched the effort with partners Miami Dade College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education in 2015. It partnered locally with Kroger and Lone Star College and Neighborhood Centers, Inc. in Houston; Publix and Miami Dade College in Miami; and Whole Foods, Westchester Community College, LaGuardia Community College and Bergen County Technical Schools in the New York City area, with much success.

Contact: Cathleen Farrell, 202-383-5987

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