How Comics are Helping Walmart Prepare 200K Women for Work

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Welcome to Desafío W, or the W Challenge, where young Chileans come to practice the skills they need to succeed in the retail industry. Modeled after a comic book, Desafío W is an online game designed to reinforce what youth are learning in class. Through the interactive platform, participants engage in a series of challenges, like launching a recycling campaign, through which they develop responsibility, teamwork, and other skills.

Desafío W is one of a number of tools developed through an IYF partnership to prepare young people—especially young women—for careers in retail. The training in Chile is one of several IYF country programs made possible with a grant from the Walmart Foundation as part of its commitment to equip 200,000 young women in emerging markets for their first job in retail. The Foundation made this pledge through its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, launched in 2011, to provide training, market access, and career opportunities to nearly a million women.

“Throughout Latin America, a significant number of youth are unemployed, with young women disproportionately needing job opportunities,” said Beth Keck, Senior Director for Women’s Economic Empowerment at Walmart. “At the same time, the region’s retail and service sectors are experiencing notable growth and need skilled workers. We’re looking to help bridge this gap.”

The genesis of what is now known as the Social School of Retail can be traced back to Brazil, where in 2009, Instituto Aliança created a retail-specific training, with the support of the Walmart Foundation. The comprehensive curriculum that resulted centers on three core components: personal and social development, retail relations, and information and communication technology. Among those retail competencies emphasized are customer service, sales, inventory control, accounting procedures, roles and responsibilities within a retail setting, and professional ethics. Following the program’s first phase in Brazil, it was then piloted in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico, with the tools and training materials adapted to meet youth needs within each local context.

The program is now being scaled in Chile and Argentina in alignment with national policy priorities related to youth employment. Using the Desafío W game, the Chile program is now being expanded to reach 5,000 youth in partnership with Acento, a local NGO, and the National Training and Employment Service (SENCE). In Argentina, the program’s scale-up plans, carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Labor, involve providing 13,000 youth with 130 hours of tailored training, along with job placement support.

Says Carla, age 20, who took part in the program’s pilot phase in Argentina, “Before, I didn’t like speaking in front of people.” After engaging in the training’s experiential small group exercises, Carla eventually overcame her fear. She then secured a job at a popular fast food restaurant, where she’s interacting with customers and learning accounting on-the-job. Eventually, she plans to study business at the University of Buenos Aires.

In addition to services specifically benefiting youth, the Walmart Foundation-funded activities will equip more than 70 youth-serving NGOs and training organizations to implement the curriculum, along with over 450 trainers—building local capacity to reach many more youth over the long term.


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