NRF Foundation launches RISE Up

NEW YORK CITY – The NRF Foundation announced today that it has brought together dozens of retailers and nonprofits to launch RISE Up (Retail Industry Skills & Education), a groundbreaking new training and credentialing initiative designed by the retail industry to help people — regardless of education, background, economic means or age — acquire the skills they need to secure jobs in retail and advance into promising careers. From in-store to digital and mobile commerce, RISE Up is designed to build competencies and pathways for the workforce of the future. To date, 21 companies have come together to pledge their support for building the next generation of the retail workforce, including Ashley Stewart, BJ's Wholesale Club, Brooks Brothers, The Container Store, Disney Store, The Home Depot, HSNi, The Kroger Co., L.L.Bean, Lowe's Companies Inc., Macy’s, Neiman Marcus Group, Pilot Flying J, Target, Tractor Supply Company, Under Armour, Vera Bradley, Walmart, The Wendy’s Company, White Castle and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

“Good jobs change lives, and retail doesn’t just provide first jobs, but opportunities for lifelong careers."

Matthew Shay
NRF President and CEO

“Good jobs change lives, and retail doesn’t just provide first jobs, but opportunities for lifelong careers,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “RISE Up helps the people who need it the most, and helps retailers address recurring talent challenges —  including reducing the time needed to hire and train new associates and decreasing turnover.”

RISE Up begins with Retail Industry Fundamentals, a 15-module formal training program for entry-level retail associates in distribution centers, call centers or stores. It will give people a wide array of knowledge in areas like retail tools and technologies, customer service, retail math, inventory and interview skills. The training can be delivered in the classroom — or online — to people of all backgrounds, ages and education levels. Upon successful completion of an exam, these learners will not only walk away with a credential for their resumes, but also the skills and confidence to take the first step toward a successful career. RISE Up is available through nonprofit and public education partners and can also be used directly by retail companies to train and advance existing employees.

“The retail industry’s greatest asset is the energy and talent of its workforce, and RISE Up will give more people the skills and knowledge they need to start successful careers in this dynamic field,” said Mindy Grossman, HSNi CEO, outgoing NRF Foundation board chairman and incoming NRF board chairman. “RISE Up is a first-of-its-kind, industry-led solution that will help bridge the skills gap between job-seekers and the diverse opportunities offered by a career in retail, and I am proud to be a part of this game-changing initiative.”

Over the past eighteen months, the NRF Foundation has worked with dozens of retailers, nonprofit partners and foundations to build Retail Industry Fundamentals, which ensures that the skills and training it provides meet industry needs, and that the materials created are user-friendly for nonprofit and education partners. Initial funding for the development of RISE Up was made possible by a capacity-building grant from the Walmart Foundation.

What the stakeholders are saying:

Ashley Stewart | James Rhee, executive chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart: “At Ashley Stewart, we want every woman to have the confidence she needs to succeed and reach her goals. We are proud to support RISE Up as together we seek to empower all of our current and future employees through education, training and skills to launch and enjoy successful careers.”

BJ’s Wholesale Club | Christopher J. Baldwin, president and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club: “BJ’s Wholesale Club is proud to be a part of RISE Up. Retail offers unlimited career opportunities, from a first step on the economic ladder to leadership positions in some of the world’s largest companies. RISE Up will help make sure we have the talented, skilled employees to help our industry thrive. RISE Up will also help the retail industry tell our great story about job creation and economic opportunity.”

Brooks Brothers | Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and CEO of Brooks Brothers: “Giving back to the communities we serve is a founding core value at Brooks Brothers, and a commitment we are pleased to continue through our support of RISE Up. Through this training program, learners will be shown a clear pathway to advance in a promising retail career that offers upward mobility and stability. We applaud the NRF Foundation for their leadership in helping the retail community take steps to solve the recurring problems of chronic unemployment and high turnover rates by offering education and skills training for job-seekers.”

Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership | Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership: "We are proud to support RISE Up and would like to thank the NRF Foundation for bringing the retail industry together to design a groundbreaking and accessible resource that is helping people get jobs and build brighter futures. Our goal is to help Chicagoland residents develop the skills they need in today's job market and we are proud to share that we are successfully training people who have gotten jobs after participating in the pilot of Retail Industry Fundamentals. This is the kind of success we are committed to supporting."

The Container Store | Kip Tindell, co-founder and chairman of The Container Store and outgoing board chairman of NRF: “Our employees are our most treasured asset at The Container Store, which is why we are so excited to be a part of RISE Up. Investing in people not only helps them advance their careers, but also creates a culture of opportunity in which everyone thrives. We are grateful that the NRF Foundation is bringing together the industry to embrace this philosophy and enhance retail’s positive impact for everyone, everywhere, every day.”

Disney Store | Paul Gainer, EVP of Disney Retail: “We are honored to be a part of this new initiative and applaud the NRF Foundation for its forward-thinking efforts in the space of talent education and cultivation. RISE Up aligns with Disney Store’s core values, which emphasize the crucial role our Cast Members play in creating magical guest experiences on a daily basis. We take great pride in how we hire, train and foster our talent, and we look forward to sharing those insights through this innovative program.”

Dress for Success Worldwide | Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide: “Dress for Success values the relationship with the NRF Foundation and its alignment with our mission and vision of empowering women to achieve economic independence so that they thrive in work and in life. In our joint efforts to provide women with sustainable jobs in the retail sector as well as the confidence and determination to add to their portable and stackable skills, we see the benefits to both employees and employers, increasing job retention and providing upward mobility and increased economic stability for the women we serve, for their families and in their local economies.”

The Home Depot | Ann-Marie Campbell, executive vice president of The Home Depot U.S. Stores: “We’re thrilled to be a part of educating and attracting the future leaders of retail through the NRF Foundation’s RISE Up initiative. The ability to create a lifelong, rewarding career in retail has been a well-kept secret for far too long.”

The Kroger Co. | Tim Massa, group vice president of human resources and labor relations of The Kroger Co.: “Digitization isn’t just changing the retail industry, it is changing society. And at a time when we have six different generations in the workplace, equipping all associates with the next-generation skills they need to continue growing both personally and professionally has never been more important. Kroger is proud to support the NRF Foundation’s RISE Up initiative.”

Lowe’s Companies Inc. | Rick Damron, chief operating officer of Lowe’s Companies Inc.: “At Lowe’s, we put customers at the center of all that we do. And today’s customers expect a customized, on-demand experience from the retailers they shop, whether in stores, online or in their homes. This shift isn’t just changing the retail landscape; it’s changing how we’re developing our employees and leaders so they can deliver on these customer expectations. RISE Up aligns with Lowe’s goal of empowering the next generation of retail leaders with the skills they need to meet — and anticipate — the needs of the evolving customer. By doing so, we’re helping to lay groundwork for the future of retail.”

Macy’s Inc. | Terry Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc.: “At Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and retail stores all across America, thousands of associates work every day in their communities to serve customers. The NRF Foundation’s visionary RISE Up program offers an exciting opportunity for more individuals to develop the skills and certifications they need to take the first step toward a promising career path in this dynamic industry.”

Neiman Marcus Group | Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group and incoming board chairman of the NRF Foundation: “RISE Up is designed to develop basic and essential skills so that individuals can master the technology of tomorrow while also better serving our customers today. Digital and mobile technology, personalization, big data and enhancing the customer experience in the store or digitally are the future of retailing. It is transformational and makes the demand for an educated and skilled team even more vital to our industry. I applaud the NRF Foundation for recognizing that retailing is so rich with career opportunities across so many disciplines and developing RISE Up to ensure we are ready for the future.”

Pilot Flying J | Mark Rowan, chief people officer of Pilot Flying J: “Pilot Flying J stands with the NRF Foundation and partner retailers in their commitment to building the next generation of the retail workforce through the RISE Up program. With more than 27,000 team members across North America, we understand the importance of developing skilled retail workers. They are the front line in serving our guests and customers, and they are our greatest asset. The retail industry provides job stability and consistency, fair pay and benefits, long-term career opportunities and satisfying, rewarding work. RISE Up will help develop skilled workers and connect them with promising careers in retail.”

Target | Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target: “Our team members are our greatest asset and are at the heart of ensuring we provide guests a seamless, reliable and enjoyable Target experience. Target has a long history of providing robust training and development to our team and we’ve seen them grow and flourish in their careers. For example, 60 percent of our team leads began as hourly team members in our stores. We’re proud to partner with the NRF Foundation and top retailers to bring RISE Up to life, offering people throughout the industry tremendously valuable learning and growth opportunities as they chart their retail career path.”

Tractor Supply Company | Greg Sandfort, CEO of Tractor Supply Company: “At Tractor Supply, development is one of our core values and we believe that teaching, coaching, listening and learning from each other is extremely important for personal and professional success. The NRF Foundation’s RISE Up program is an important development initiative, and we’re honored to be participating and helping to give more people the opportunity and skills they need to reach their potential in the dynamic retail industry.”

Under Armour | Jason LaRose, president, North America of Under Armour: "Over 20 years ago, the Under Armour brand was born by taking a simple idea to market that ultimately revolutionized how athletes dress. We have always had a commitment to innovation and to building great teams. The NRF Foundation’s RISE Up initiative will be a game-changer for the retail industry, and Under Armour is proud to support this program that has the potential to empower and enrich the careers of so many.”

Vera Bradley | Rob Wallstrom, CEO of Vera Bradley: “Vera Bradley applauds the NRF Foundation and the retailers that were instrumental in creating the RISE Up program. Our ability to attract, train and provide career paths for quality individuals is critical for the health and future of our industry. Retail offers an array of diverse, exciting, challenging and energizing career opportunities. I have thoroughly enjoyed my retail career and look forward to the exciting changes ahead in our industry and the role that great leaders will play in developing the next generation. Along with the NRF Foundation and myriad retail peers, Vera Bradley is committed to further elevating retail careers in the marketplace through this innovative new program.”

Walmart | Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S.: “Retail is such a dynamic industry —  it offers great jobs, flexibility and the ability to learn new skills and grow a career. Walmart is proud to work with the NRF Foundation and other retailers to explore new ways to attract, train and retain talent. This is a critical time for the industry, and it’s important that we all focus on giving our people the tools to succeed and the ability to move up.”

The Wendy’s Company | Todd Penegor, president and CEO of The Wendy’s Company: “We believe that the purpose of Wendy’s is to create joy and opportunity through food, family and community. Our employees are vital to that equation, and it’s important for them to have the educational tools and resources they need to be successful and grow in their careers. Wendy’s is proud to support RISE Up and we look forward to the opportunities this program will bring to future members of the Wendy’s family.”

White Castle | John Kelley, 4th generation family member and chief people officer of White Castle: “As a family-owned business committed to our communities, we know the empowerment that comes from employment — especially for opportunity youth. By providing a path to acquire skills and credentials, the NRF Foundation is investing in a brighter future for the whole next generation of the workforce.”

Williams-Sonoma Inc. | Linda Lewis, chief talent officer of Williams-Sonoma Inc.: “At Williams-Sonoma, our success is driven first and foremost by the talent of our people. RISE Up embodies our commitment to developing talent from the ground up, and we are pleased to support the NRF Foundation’s efforts to invest in helping more people realize their potential through rewarding and challenging retail careers.”

About RISE Up
RISE Up, an industry-led initiative run by the NRF Foundation, helps people build careers that are both challenging and rewarding through hands-on learning and credentials. Available through nonprofit and public education partners, it provides entry-level workers the skills and education needed to get a job in retail and advance their careers. RISE Up is part of RISE (Retail Industry Skills & Education), a broader retail education and credentialing program led by the National Retail Federation.

About the NRF Foundation
The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail. The NRF Foundation is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the National Retail Federation and is funded in part by generous donations from retail industry supporters.