CHICAGO — Seeking to help connect Chicagoans to good-paying jobs in growing industries, a Little Village education institute is launching an adult retail education program.
The Instituto del Progresso Latino, 2520 S. Western Ave., is a nonprofit that seeks to educate and empower Chicago's Latino community. Its education model is uniquely built to achieve these goals: It operates two charter high schools specifically for Latinos, as well as adult education programs that specifically work to get people in better-paying, in-demand jobs.
It's programs have proved to be successful, as the organization's president, Juan Salgado, was awarded the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" last year.
The organization already has programs for jobs in manufacturing and nursing, and now the organization will add another program to get people into in-demand jobs in retail.
Classes in the new retail jobs program will begin on Jan. 23, and the organization is hosting a breakfast to learn more about the program Monday at its Western Avenue location. The program is being funded by a grant through the Walmart Foundation.
Though its often regarded as unglamorous and low-paying, the retail industry is growing in some places, and there is a need for trained and certified workers, said Antonio Mannings, director of the new retail program.
"Retail is growing," Mannings said. "We're connecting people not just with retail jobs, but careers in retail."
To help their students achieve achieve careers, the organization develops specific programs that help their students stand out above the competition for in-demand jobs.
One of those jobs is retail manager, Mannings said.
To train people for such jobs, the organization will help them with English classes, reading classes, math and civics. But the math class is specifically as it relates to retail, Mannings said.
"It's not just being able to read and write, it's retail literacy," Mannings said. "It's not just math, it's how you apply it to inventory, to pricing."
Completion in the retail job program will earn students a certification in one of three fields: customer service and sales, advanced customer service and sales, and retail manager. The National Retail Confederation will certify the students, said Mannings, who joined Instituto del Progresso Latino in November and decades in retail and education.
There are nearly 10 million Americans working in retail, and their median pay is $10 an hour, Mannings said. But with training and certification, the hope is that graduates of the new program will be able to command more in the hopes of building a middle-class life, he said.
"Largely these are high skilled workers but have no credentials behind them to separate them from the competition," he said. "That's where the certification comes in."
Retail workers have already been taking advantage of the organization's adult education classes, even if they didn't have a specific program until this year.
Connie Morales, a mother of three, enrolled in English classes to help her kids with schoolwork and to excel at her job as a grocery store cashier and hopefully graduate to a better job.
"It's important for my children and my job," Morales said in an interview with DNAinfo last year. "Sometimes they need help with homework. Sometimes a customer doesn't speak Spanish and asks for a price check."
Instituto del Progresso Latino will host an informational breakfast for those interested in the program at 9 a.m. Monday at 2520 S. Western Ave. Anyone wishing to RSVP can do so at 773-890-0055 or by emailing Mannings at email@example.com.
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