Walmart plans to bring 1,200 jobs to D.C. when it builds at least four new stores in the city. The retail giant will invest $3 million over the next three years to train D.C. residents to work in retail, the company announced at a news conference Thursday.
The job training programs will be funded in the city community college and through non-profit organizations that compete for training contracts.
Michelle Gilliar, director of the Walmart foundation, said the program is meant to "recognize we have particular problems in terms of the adult population and disconnected youth not having the jobs skills enabling them to get an entry level job. We have to change that."
Ward 7 in Northeast, not far form the Employment Services Headquarters where the press conference was held, is one of the areas of greatest need. Here, literacy rates are low, unemployment rates high.
Half of the population is illiterate, compared with 37 percent citywide. Unemployment is at 19.3 percent, nearly double the city's average of 10.4 percent.
"Clearly we're going to focus in substantial part on these areas east of the river because that's where the unemployment is the worst," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said.
"First and foremost I've never been employed because of my background," said one job trainee. He was in prison and among a group of mainly 30- and 40-somethings already in a job readiness class run by the city.
They're learning skills to convince somebody to hire them. "They tell us how to go on an interview to sell yourself," another job trainee said.
Walmart says it will fund training for 2,000 residents to improve the city's pool of potential retail workers. It has yet to begin construction on it's stores in Northeast Washington,