Building Stronger Pathways to Retail Careers Initiative

Clearly defined pathways to retail careers do not exist uniformly across the nation's community colleges. Through the Building Stronger Pathways to Retail Careers Initiative, Achieving the Dream is cataloging the current status of community college retail pathways, selecting four community colleges to strengthen retail career pathway and advising systems, and disseminating a retail career pathway design toolkit through the Achieving the Dream National Reform Network.

The first phase of the 24-month grant from the Walmart Foundation will enable Achieving the Dream to conduct a scan of Achieving the Dream's Network of community colleges to determine the current status of retail career pathways and collaboration with retail employers.

During the second phase of the grant, beginning in June 2015, four Achieving the Dream Colleges were selected to strengthen a short-term (six months or less) retail credential that leads to middle-skill retail careers and is nested in and aligned within a broader, cohesive retail pathway.  The pathway prepares students to pursue middle-skill retail careers in the south Florida, Durham, Tallahassee and Douglas County regions. Middle-skill jobs require more than secondary school but less than a bachelor's degree.  The four colleges selected for the Achieving the Dream Retail Pathways Initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation are:


These selected colleges will identify specific components of effective pathways design to implement over the 19-month project period to strengthen their short-term credential. Achieving the Dream will provide technical assistance to the colleges through its Retail Pathways Support Team that will include a retail pathways expert, a cross-college data coach, each college’s Achieving the Dream data and leadership coaches, and the external evaluation team. The Retail Pathways Support Team will provide expert guidance on the implementation of pathway improvements as well as the collection, analysis, and use of labor market and student-level data. Each college's leadership coach and data coach will assist the college in connecting their retail career pathways efforts with their overall student success goals and strategies and will help the college internally scale learnings to other career pathways.

Finally, Achieving the Dream will work with an external evaluator to assess the implementation and effectiveness of the selected colleges' retail career pathway improvements. From the experiences of these four colleges, Achieving the Dream will identify and document promising practices and lessons learned for implementing and improving retail career pathways at community colleges.

On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, Achieving the Dream held a webinar to take interested colleges through the initiative details, to provide clarifying information on the activities that can be funded through the grant funds, and provide additional information on what we are looking for in the RFP narrative. You can view the full webinar here and access the presentation slides here.


  • Achieving the Dream invites proposals from active Achieving the Dream Institutions for the Building Stronger Pathways to Retail Careers Initiative, an Achieving the Dream managed grant opportunity funded by the Walmart Foundation. Four selected colleges will each receive $112,000 to strengthen a short-term (six months or less) retail credential that leads to middle-skill retail careers and is nested in and aligned within a broader, cohesive retail pathway. Recipient colleges will receive technical assistance to build capacity in tracking, analyzing, and using data to evaluate and improve their middle-skill retail career pathway programs. Colleges will then apply their pathway improvements and new knowledge to additional credentials contained within the broader retail pathway. Find out more and apply by clicking on the two documents below.  

    The 19-month initiative will provide community college students and incumbent retail workers with easily accessible, accelerated, and efficient retail pathways to master required competencies for middle-skill retail careers that pay family-sustaining wages. This initiative will assist community colleges in the Achieving the Dream Network by strengthening pathways to middle-skill retail careers.

    The proposal deadline is May 5, 2015 at 11:59 Pacific Time. For more information, please review the RFP and budget template below. If you have questions, please contact Cindy Lenhart, Vice President for Community College Relations and her team at

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