Retail training program to launch in February

To help teenagers gain valuable work experience and prepare them for the future workforce, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee will launch a retail training program in February.


The program, known as Career Options and Readiness for Employment (CORE), will cater to 64 high school juniors and seniors and will place them in internships with companies in the region once their job readiness training is complete.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, a nonprofit organization that works to foster academic and character development among area youth, developed a program focused specifically on retail in response to their youth members’ desire to work in malls and big box stores, according to Michael Waite, director of career development for the organization.

While many Boys and Girls Clubs teen members complete resumes, undergo job training, apply to jobs and follow up with employers, not many of them hear back, Waite said.

“And so this program is helping serve as a stepping stone for the teens to receive the work experience…so they can build up their resumes and work portfolios,” Waite said.

CORE, which will be funded through the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, will unfold in three tiers and 16 units of training, all targeting high school students whose households meet 70 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, according to Waite.

The first phase, to begin on Feb. 10, will entail two days of training at the nonprofit’s Daniels-Mardak Club and Davis Club locations in Milwaukee. One day of the week will be devoted to studying retail associate curriculum, and the second will be focused on academic enrichment tutoring, which will include helping students map out their career plans and creating individual service strategies to guide their academic success.

Within the first tier, students will also work toward an industry-recognized certification that reinforces their knowledge of retail fundamentals, such as professional appearance and attitude, greeting customers, merchandizing and cashier management, and customer loyalty.

During the second phase of training, CORE will cover job readiness training and soft skills training and will also prepare students to assume positions in the private sector. Topics of focus will include conflict resolution in the workplace, acceptable etiquette in the workplace and appropriate attire.

“When the teens arrive at their jobs, the businesses do not have to worry about additionally coaching the teens on this,” Waite said. “They’re all ready to go. The teens are all ready to learn whatever job they need to do at their workplace.”

Two and a half to three months into CORE, teens will be placed into their internships. The program will seek to align teens’ interests with the entry-level positions available at participating employers.

So far, 21 area employers have committed to CORE, including Colectivo, U.S. Cellular, Boston Store, Wheel & Sprocket in Brookfield, Direct Supply and Molina Healthcare. Boys and Girls Clubs are still looking for additional employers where they can place students, both for CORE and other club programs within career development, Waite said.

CORE teens will work onsite eight hours each week through spring, and those who aren’t graduating will continue working through summer with wages provided by the Workforce Investment Board. Students who may not be ready to jump into the roles in the private sector will fill positions at Boys and Girls Clubs locations where they will receive extra coaching until the summer cycle.

Within this third phase of the program, students will also continue working on professional development at club locations for two hours a week, part of which will be devoted to the completion of a national career readiness certificate through curriculum owned by the national testing organization ACT.

The CORE program, which will roll out on an annual basis, is a critical one for a number of reasons, according to Waite.

“Our teens need work experience,” Waite said. “They want to be able to work and earn money, and there’s a lot of lack of opportunities for our young people. It keeps them out of trouble. It keeps them constructive and focused. It gives them opportunity and experience.”

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