Shaping the Future of E-Commerce

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By Drew Foxman

The E-Commerce Career Academy is a one-of-a-kind training program combining expert instruction with hands-on paid work experience to prepare workers for success in the growing e-commerce industry

Thanks to the support of The Hearst Foundations, SF Goodwill launched the E-Commerce Career Academy in September, not only to improve the lives of participants through upskilling and economic growth, but also to make the e-commerce industry more inclusive and provide a talent pipeline for local hiring needs. While there are a growing number of industry training programs in e-commerce, our unique approach of integrating training alongside paid work experience represents a first of its kind model for this rapidly growing industry.  “Ecommerce is the timely, relevant, and suitable entry point for individuals to gain the essential knowledge and skills to find continued success in a tech-driven world,” says Andy Simon, Associate Vice President of Business Innovation.

 When Dexter arrived to the Bay Area last year from Arkansas, he found himself homeless and unemployed until he arrived at our doors. Today Dexter is an appraiser in e-commerce, who also is a certified Google IT Specialist thanks to our suite of training programs.

At the heart of SF Goodwill’s Career Pathways “earn and learn” model is the Career Academy, an on-the-job training program providing workplace and vocational skills as part of employees’ paid work experience. In the last few years, we have seen incredible growth in our e-commerce division. It is our fastest growing line of business, and has continued to accelerate as consumers and communities have adjusted to the impact of quarantine and retail closures during COVID-19.  We knew we needed to do more to prepare our workforce and community to not just compete, but also thrive in the changing retail ecosystem.  In addition, while the Bay Area is the epicenter of the tech industry, economic inequality is widening, magnified by the COVID-19 crisis.

E-Commerce Academy participants gain fundamental industry knowledge—from business models and product lifecycle to authentication and sales channels—and applied learning through a comprehensive curriculum over twelve weeks featuring expert instructors that guide participants through the essential components of the industry, all while receiving hands-on paid work experience.  “We didn’t realize the impact this would have so immediately on our team,” reflects Simon. “Within the first few weeks of the program, participants’ knowledge of e-comm and the types of opportunities that exist within our organization and themselves had grown exponentially.”

A Business Advisory Council—comprised of subject matter experts from industry leaders Amazon, FedEx, Poshmark, and Trove—bolsters the Academy. The Council provides expertise and guidance on the curriculum, leads classroom sessions, and benefits from preferential hiring access for Academy graduates that have the skills needed to succeed in relevant roles—helping shape the future of e-commerce to be more inclusive and equitable.

As the Bay Area’s largest and oldest social enterprise, SF Goodwill has served some of the most vulnerable populations in the region since the turn of the century. Our vision is to build a strong engine to upward mobility through career pathways, where a job at SF Goodwill provides meaningful work experience, impactful on-the-job training in critical skills, and a pathway to economic stability.

Stay tuned for updates on the E-Comm Academy as we continue providing new pathways for our community. We believe in the power of second chances, job training and the dignity of work.

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