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Free training offered to new retail workers

– A new training program for retail workers will teach basic
skills to as many as 400 workers free of charge, in time for the
opening of 20 new retail stores this summer.
GILROY – A new training program for retail workers will teach basic skills to as many as 400 workers free of charge, in time for the opening of 20 new retail stores this summer.

Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, in close partnership with Gavilan College’s Small Business Development Center, are offering eight-hour workshops teaching the basics of working in retail to prospective and current retail employees.

The program will be offered Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Jan. 23 and ending June 18.

“This is going to be a valuable resource for retailers in Gilroy,” said Bill Lindsteadt, executive director of the GEDC. “This is a good opportunity for (employees) to get some basic retail training.”

The Economic Development Corporation and Small Business Development Center started developing and designing the program last fall. The groups collaborated with other retailers and training programs to create the workshops, Lindsteadt said.

“I personally have 14 years of retail management experience, and so I recognize the need here in Gilroy for retail employees,” Lindsteadt said. “I also recognize the need for basic retail training for them before they go in and apply for the job. I would have loved for my applicants to have this kind of training before they came in to work.”

Some store managers agreed that the program will benefit both employers and employees of retail stores. Employers will get more educated workers and employees may have an advantage over the competition.

The program will provide an overview of working in a retail environment.

“This training will include how to handle cash, good customer service, work ethics, all those things that sometimes folks take for granted,” said Rich Gillis, associate dean of business development at Gavilan.

In the program, trainees will also discuss work attitudes, business communication and even dealing with difficult people. Hands-on training will include using a cash register and scanning practices.

Graduates of the program will receive a certificate of completion that they can provide to potential employers, Lindsteadt said.

Free of charge to participants, the retail workers training program will be funded by a $40,000 grant from the Silicon Valley Workforce Investment Network, which helps businesses with training, outplacement and recruiting.

The grant will pay for the instructors’ salaries, class supplies and advertising the program to businesses and the public at large. Local retailers will receive a brochure advertising the program because they can send employees to the training. Advertising for the program has only just begun, so businesses have not yet signed up.

Brochures will be available to potential trainees at local employment agencies and churches. The program’s developers said they see potential for filling each of the 20 Friday sessions. Each workshop is limited to between 20 and 25 people and enrollment is open to residents of Santa Clara and San Benito counties, Gillis said.

Hiring instructors for the workshops is “in the works,” Lindsteadt said. Each class will be taught by one or two instructors with experience in both teaching and retail.

A large source of motivation for the founders of the program is the anticipated launch of dozens of stores in the Gilroy Crossing and Pacheco Pass centers at Highway 152 and U.S. 101 by June, but Gillis and Lindsteadt want existing local businesses to take advantage of the program as well.

“The smaller retailers will gain the most out of this because they have, quite frankly, less time to train somebody,” Lindsteadt said. “So I think the small retailers at the outlets, as well as around Gilroy, will benefit.”

Roy Martinez, store director of Hollywood Video, 753 First St., said many of his employees are high school students working at their first job.

“If they had a little bit of training, I think they’d understand better,” Martinez said. “Definitely, it would make my job easier because that would be less training for me and wouldn’t take up as much time.”

Participation in the program might not affect whether a person is hired at the store, he said, because that decision is largely based on a company test. High school students may find it difficult to participate in the program, which is only offered on Fridays.

Basic cash register and computer training would benefit first-time workers, as would an introduction to basic interpersonal skills, Martinez said.

“If you give them a general idea of customer service, I think that would go a long way,” he said.

At The Paper Outlet, manager Diane Furr said she hires some employees with little or no experience. Someone who participated in the retail workers training program might be more hirable, she said, although not for managerial positions.

Lindsteadt said there will constantly be a niche filled by workers who can be trained through the retail workers training program.

“We have a tremendous amount of retail business here in Gilroy and there are always jobs available that aren’t getting filled,” he said.

Target, which recently opened its 6705 Camino Arroyo location in October, is always accepting applications, according to Stephanie Clark, an executive team leader there.

While the training workshops could help prepare people who have no previous retail experience, Clark said that experience or training is not a major consideration when hiring workers.

“They can come in here with no training, and we can give them the skills they need,” Clark said. “We hire people who have no background at all, either if they’ve never had a job before or they’ve never worked in retail before.

The store trains all its employees through a corporate program tailored specifically for Target stores, Clark said.

“We think they would succeed, based on the training we provide,” she said.

For more information on the retail workers training program, contact Debi Simmons at the Small Business Development Center at 847-0373.

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