Innovative job training program prepares candidates for jobs in Grocery and food retail industry

(Brooklyn) – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Stephen Levin met with students and graduates of GROCERYworks, an innovative workforce development initiative conducted by The HOPE Program, in downtown Brooklyn. The New York City Council funded program trains and places unemployed and under-served New Yorkers in the growing food retail industry. Last year, Quinn announced the GROCERYworks program as part of FoodWorks, a comprehensive blueprint for creating jobs, improving public health and protecting the environment.

“Unemployment has had an impact on all sectors in our city—not just the financial industry, but basic service and retail jobs as well,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “That’s why it’s so important that we recognize the strides made by The HOPE Program and everyone involved in GROCERYworks. We in the Council have made it a priority to find ways to help all people access every employment opportunity that comes up and to get them the training they need to get that job and keep it. Today we encourage the GROCERYworks students and graduates on preparing themselves for a successful future.”

“I commend Speaker Quinn for her dedication to job creation through the GROCERYworks program and her vision for improving our health and environment through the greater FoodWorks program,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “I also praise The HOPE Program for all the wonderful work they do day in and day out to not only provide excellent job training to those who need it, but also to instill in their graduates a real sense of dignity in the work they do. But I would especially like to recognize the students and graduates who continue to work so hard, even when times are tough, to advance their skills and job-readiness for the 21st Century. Their success is remarkable.”

In GROCERYworks, this year, 54 students will undergo eight weeks of full-time soft and hard skills training. They also take part in four-week internships at grocery stores and other food related sites. The curriculum emphasizes customer service skills, conflict resolution techniques, job retention, and career advancement strategies.

GROCERYworks training also focuses on food retail-specific skills such as:
• Understanding grocery store culture, major employers, and their products
• Cashiering and required math skills
• Product recognition
• Maintaining store appearances
• Working in fast-paced environment
• Knowledge of environmental issues impacting supermarkets
• Food handling (certification offered)
• Occupational safety (certification provided)

“We are extremely proud and grateful to be working with Speaker Quinn and her team on this initiative. GROCERYworks puts New Yorkers on a career path and raises awareness about the importance of access to healthy and locally produced food. The result of the first class that completed has been tremendous. Eighty percent of graduates were employed within a month of program completion,” said Millard “Mitty” Owens, Executive Director of The HOPE Program.

“It’s been wonderful to see first-hand the positive effects GROCERYworks is having on those we work with. Graduates are excited to be employed in our supermarkets and local grocery stores. They are using what they learn in the classroom to be stellar employees and looking forward to doing their best and moving up in this career path, “said Tracey Allard, The HOPE Program’s Director of Employment and Graduate Services.

The food retail industry offers a career path for those without a four-year college degree, and in many cases, for those without a high school diploma and does not exclude people who have criminal backgrounds. To develop a meaningful employer-driven curriculum, HOPE hosted a roundtable last September with representatives from UFCW Local 1500, the Food Industry Alliance of NY, a variety of union and non-union grocery store operators, and other industry experts.

“This program will not only train those to excel in the retail food industry, it will also ensure that customers will get the best in service which in turn will generate revenue for businesses,” said Patrick Purcell, Assistant to the President of UFCW Local 1500. “The entire food retail system, when you look at it, can produce quality things like good jobs, good business and a long lasting career. I applaud Speaker Quinn for her forward thinking ideas to make this come to reality”

“Speaker Quinn has built a diverse coalition to expand career opportunities and skills training in the food retail industry, and I’m glad that she has involved organized labor and unionized grocery stores to help ensure that graduates of this important program gain access to good quality jobs,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“The Food Industry Alliance of New York State applauds Speaker Quinn for her groundbreaking work on food policy issues,” said Patricia Broadhagen VP of Public Affairs, Food Industry Alliance of NYS, Inc. “We’ve seen that this isn’t a one-time event but a comprehensive, long-term commitment to develop and support creative initiatives in the food sector that are good for public health and good for the economy. We’ve been so impressed by the skill of the people at Project HOPE and carrying out the GROCERYworks project and FIA is pleased to be a small part of it. With the breadth of opportunity in food retailing, I am convinced that the people trained by GROCERYworks today will become the food industry leaders of tomorrow.”

Employers that have hired from the first cycle of GROCERYworks trainees include Central Market, Five Guys Burger and Fries, Foragers Market and Three Guys from Brooklyn. Other GROCERYworks partners who are conducting internships as well as other employers willing to hire GROCERYworks grads include: Brooklyn Fare, the Chef’s Table, Shop Rite and Stop and Shop and the Concord Market.