Gaining Retail Skills through Work-Based Learning

It may be the hot, hazy days of summer but 20 energetic and enthusiastic young people aged 15-18 are spending their days learning the ins and outs of retail and customer service.  They are enrolled in the free Leaders in Service Training (LIST) program which was created to help youth facing employment barriers to obtain work experience and develop employable skills.

Alykhan Suleman, the Executive Director of New Circles Community Services explains why LIST is a critical part of the organization’s suite of programs and a valuable community resource.  “The youth unemployment rate is 18%, nearly triple Toronto’s overall rate. For newcomer youth, who make up the majority of our clients, youth unemployment is over 30%, as they face additional cultural and language barriers. Free employment training programs, particularly for those under 17 years, are very limited in the community.”

The intensive 7-week, 168-hour program gives participants several important advantages in their future job search. Students will learn retail and customer service skills, develop competencies relevant in the Canadian workplace, gain confidence, and acquire the tools and knowledge required to conduct an effective job search. This is accomplished through a combination of classroom instruction, computer learning, hands-on experience, and site visits to retailers. The Retail Council of Canada certifies the students after they complete their in-class sessions and certification exam.

15 year-old Saawi Baloch says, “Being part of the LIST program is an amazing experience! We not only learn about the retail industry but we also learn life skills, how to work as team, how to work independently and demonstrate strong leadership skills.”

The LIST program incorporates one of the most important trends in youth employment2 called work-based learning. Participants work in the GLOW (Gently Loved Outfits to Wear) clothing bank. GLOW is uniquely designed to simulate a department store that provides a retail shopping experience for clients.  Students help GLOW clients and obtain vital experience for the retail industry.

According to 2015 program participant Shamisa Paikar, “everything we learn throughout the workshops and the store is valuable. By engaging with customers, we learn about customer service and how to interact with others. Through the workshops, we learn important life skills that we can apply to everyday life.”

Funding for the Leaders in Service Training Program is generously provided by Mackenzie Investments, TELUS, the W.C. Kitchen Foundation and the Norman and Marian Robertson Foundation. The program is delivered in collaboration with the Retail Council of Canada and the Labour and Education Centre.

Reference: Work-Based Learning Works: An Action Plan for Youth Employment in Toronto. City of Toronto 2015

New Circles' GLOW clothing service is the largest clothing bank in Toronto. We help 12,000 people of all ages annually.