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Lives Empowered


Lives Empowered Impact Report

This evaluation provides an overview of the Lives Empowered initiative, the initiative’s effectiveness in upskilling frontline workers, and successes and opportunities identified throughout the evaluation process.

Empowerment Score

The Empowerment Score aims to measure individual, community, and economic characteristics that lead to greater employment stability and increased wages for Colorado workers.

Retail Career Pathways

Explore career pathways in retail, hospitality, and food & beverage to discover the education and skills required to pursue a career in the industry and advance your career goals.



Upskilling Frontline Retail Employees Report: A Statewide Approach to Preparing Hospitality, Tourism, Food and Beverage Services, and Retail Employees for the Future of Work

This report shares lessons learned from Colorado’s Lives Empowered initiative, which sought to support and sustain the launch of retail sector partnerships with the goal of piloting upskilling training programs for incumbent retail workers, including those in hospitality, food services, and tourism. It outlines what the CWDC learned throughout the process of implementing the initiative and provides communities with a guiding resource to design programs that meet their unique workforce and economic needs, regardless of location, population density, or industry mix. It also emphasizes the power of upskilling initiatives to address employment disparities in marginalized populations, including women and people of color, who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Empowerment Score

Lives Empowered partners launched empowermentscore.org to measure indicators of economic mobility for Colorado’s frontline workforce. The Empowerment Score aims to measure individual, community, and economic characteristics that lead to greater employment stability and increased wages for Colorado workers, and empower state and local decision makers to increase opportunities for individuals to improve their economic status.

Lives Empowered Impact Report

This report provides an overview of the Lives Empowered initiative, its effectiveness in upskilling frontline workers, and successes and opportunities for improvement identified throughout the evaluation process. The evaluation can be used by Lives Empowered stakeholders to more fully understand the program’s execution and outcomes as well as to inform policy, programs, and practice at the state and local level to accelerate the upskilling of frontline workers in Colorado. View the report.

Upskilling Step-by-Step Guide

This guide provides step-by-step instructions for cities, local workforce boards, counties, or regions interested in advancing the economic mobility and training of frontline workers. The resources in this guide combine national promising practices with lessons learned through the Lives Empowered initiative in Colorado to provide a high-level compilation of the actions taken to create employer-led and locally designed upskilling programs. View the Upskilling Step-by-Step Guide.

Upskilling Case Studies

Diverse organizations and employers implement upskilling to improve employee retention, facilitate career advancement, attract new talent, and increase customer satisfaction. The case studies highlight the upskilling approaches of various Colorado organizations to help provide a scalable model for upskilling the frontline workforce that can be replicated by other entities across the state. View the case studies

Business Solutions for Training and Supporting Frontline Employees

This compilation of case studies highlights the innovations and successes of Colorado’s retail, hospitality, and food and beverage employers. Nine organizations are profiled to highlight their unique approaches to training and supporting their employees. View the resource.

Reenvisioning Retail 2021

Reenvisioning Retail 2021 took place on April 14-16 and highlighted equitable strategies for economic recovery and opportunities for upskilling, reskilling, and redeploying displaced workers. View session recordings, slides, and other resources from the event.

Lives Empowered

Frontline service workers make up one in seven employees in the United States. With the onset of COVID-19, the critical necessity of these workers has been brought to the forefront. To support these individuals and the economy, the initiative will work to ensure equitable upskilling and retention strategies that build mobility are more widely spread.

Lives Empowered brings together retail businesses interested in working collaboratively to increase economic mobility for frontline workers across Colorado and contribute to a strong economy. Lives Empowered is made possible by a $4.1 million grant from Walmart to the Colorado Workforce Development Council.


On Dec. 4, 2018, the Colorado Workforce Development Council became the first state government entity to receive a $4 million dollar investment from Walmart to support workforce development through the Lives Empowered initiative. Over the next three years, the CWDC will work with local and regional communities to support and sustain the launch of up to 10 retail sector partnerships committed to piloting upskilling training for incumbent retail workers.

To learn more about the Lives Empowered grant announcement, check out the following links:

Lives Empowered Press Release

Lives Empowered Launch - Event Recap

Lives Empowered Launch - Full Video

$4M Walmart grant will seed program to train Colorado retail workers for better jobs - Denver Business Journal

Walmart Foundation Donates Millions For New Training Program In Colorado - CBS Denver

Walmart Announces More than $4 Million in Support to the State of Colorado to Empower the Retail Workforce - Business Wire

Foundational Resources

Colorado Retail Landscape Analysis

Lives Empowered One-pager for Businesses

Lives Empowered Stakeholder Webinar


Colleen Wohnoutka, Business Engagement

Bobbie Wolfe, Upskilling


Why Retail?

Retail is a springboard to greater economic opportunity in Colorado.

By the numbers:

  • 51 of 64 Colorado counties project growth in retail during the next decade
  • Colorado is the eighth fastest-growing state for jobs in retail
  • 99% of retail businesses employ fewer than 50 people
  • 71% of hiring managers appreciate employees with retail experience
  • 60% of retail store employees are promoted within 10 months of being hired into an entry-level position
  • On average, retail workers make $38K per year