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Better Skills Require Better Wages

Better Skills...With national and state unemployment rates at all-time lows, you may wonder why Daily Work always has a waiting list of new job seekers. Especially since news stories about businesses that need qualified workers make regular appearances on the nightly news and in newspapers.

One challenge that we continue to encounter is the disconnect between what skills employers want in new employees and what they are willing to pay them.  For example, the Star Tribune recently ran a story about a new training program, “Rise Up,”  between the National Retail Federation trade group and 30+ employers such as Target, Home Depot, and Walmart. 

The 40-hour program offers certificates in retail industry fundamentals and beginning and advanced courses in customer service and sales. The program also aims to decrease job turnover and prepare retail workers with stronger skills so they can advance in their careers. 

However, the sad reality is that average hourly pay for retail workers is just $9.26 per hour, which equates to under $750 every two weeks for full time employees. For high school students, this wage might be manageable, but for many of Daily Work’s clients, who are adult immigrants, often with families, this wage cannot support the trappings that come with adult life such as rent, insurance, and car payments.

Our clients request jobs such as cleaning and maintenance because they often pay $14-$16 per hour, which grosses about $1,200 every two weeks, or $1,000/month more than the average retail job.

I commend the retail industry for investing in worker training and I do believe that the skills gained working retail are essential to and transferable into many other professions, but the reality is that if the retail industry is serious about attracting and retaining workers, then they have to address how to offer employees better wages, better benefits, and full-time hours.

For more information, read about the “Rise Up” program  in the Star Tribune or on the National Retail Federation website.

By Julie Hoff, Executive DirectorJulie Hoff

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