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From the classroom to the showroom floor

Company, ValuesErica Terry Derryck, Gap Inc.Comment

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”

Those Phil Collins lyrics aren’t the motto of the Gap Inc. for Community Colleges program, but they could be according to Charlene White who heads up this unique job readiness training program for Gap Inc.

Charlene insists the relationships that develop between the store manager “professors” and the community college students are what make the program so special.

In fact, she says the four-year-old program was designed to educate student participants while offering store managers a chance to grow professionally. As a result, students build partnerships with classmates, staff and their Gap Inc. “faculty,” while honing their communication, problem solving, time-management, resume and interviewing skills.

The 32 Gap Inc. leaders who participate from across all of the company’s brands get as much out of the experience – including a pipeline of new talent for our stores.

Last year, 147 Gap for Community Colleges alumni joined the company as seasonal, stock and store associates and the number is growing. Charlene adds that the deepening relationships formed with the academic partners, especially the art and design schools in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, are leading to more connections and job prospects for the program’s graduates, which is a win for the students and for Gap Inc.

The impact of the program is being felt in other ways too. Since it started, Gap for Community Colleges has awarded $250,000 in scholarships, expanded to over 25 markets from New York to San Francisco, and served more than 3,000 students. The course offerings have grown to include one-day workshops to provide greater access to more students.

While the program launched as a Gap Inc. pilot in response to President Obama’s Skills for America’s Future initiative, Dee Dee Pierson, Gap general manager and a Gap for Community Colleges program leader in Houston, believes it really got its start with the ideals our founders Doris and Don Fisher instilled in the company.

“They wanted to make a difference, not only in people’s lives but in the community, especially in the area of education and this is what we’re doing and I, in some small way, get to be a part of that legacy.”