This Mall in Indiana is Helping Retail Workers Succeed

By Susan Richardson
September 22, 2016
Southlake Mall exterior of building

No matter the job, real-world experience is the most valuable foundation for starting a career or advancing an existing one.

Training is a close second. But sometimes it’s unclear how both of these can move you forward, especially in the retail industry.

In Northwest Indiana, a new retail training lab is working to provide the answers.

Positioned in a local retail hub -- the Southlake Mall in Merrillville, Indiana – the retail training lab is a place where retail job seekers can take classes that cover the interpersonal and technical skills that are necessary to create an overall outstanding customer experience. Not only can workers gain this new knowledge, but they can also earn an official credential: Graduates can receive certifications in customer service and sales, loss prevention, retail management, and/or inventory management, all of which are recognized by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Loss Prevention Foundation.

While it may seem unusual to establish a training center in the middle of a shopping environment – for these students, it just made sense. Not only do participants have close access to technical instruction, but they can step out of the retail training lab and experience customer service and retail management in action, just by walking into one of the many stores in the mall.

A few weeks ago, the first round of graduates completed the NRF customer service and sales certification. I was taken aback by how passionate they were about everything they had learned, and as a previous store owner for 23 years, I knew that they were equipped with everything they would need to be successful in either starting or advancing in their careers. Not only were they armed with certified skills, but they were coming away with a renewed sense of confidence.

This lab, an initiative of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board, was made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, which has enabled us to offer classes at no cost. That strengthens employment opportunities for everyone who walks out of our doors. We’re excited to provide such one-of-a-kind service for jobseekers and employers in retail.