Skip to main content

Sam’s Club to participate in Unlock Potential’s youth hiring program

Unlock Potential is a hiring program designed to provide real career opportunities for young people at the greatest risk of incarceration.
Sam's Club CEO Kathryn McLay
Sam's Club CEO Kathryn McLay

Sam’s Club is the fourth major employer to sign on to a new initiative aimed at helping young people who face the greatest risk of ending up in prison.

Sam's Club has joined Unlock Potential, a hiring program designed to provide real career opportunities for young people at the greatest risk of incarceration. Funded by Walmart through the Center for Racial Equity, the program works with companies to use employment to promote racial equity, disrupt the prison pipeline and inclusively create the next generation of business leaders.

Unlock Potential will focus on the individuals aged 16-24 years old who are most likely to end up in the prison system: Those who have been in the juvenile justice system, experienced sex or human trafficking, had a parent incarcerated before the age of 18 or grown out of foster care.

[Read More: Sam’s Club intros member access platform]

"We know that at-risk youth have limited opportunities and often find themselves unemployed or out of school, and as a society we have to intervene before it reaches that point," said Sam's Club CEO Kathryn McLay. "Programs like this help. We can put young people on a positive path as they begin adult life. And even if they move on after their time with us, we've provided them with real-world job and life skills they can take anywhere."

Walmart's support of Unlock Potential is part of the Center for Racial Equity's creation of national networks of community leaders, nonprofits and policymakers focused on kickstarting criminal justice prevention initiatives in communities across the country.

The new partnership with Unlock Potential complements Sam's Club's existing internship program for high school students in underserved communities, which provides on-the-job training and basic life skills, as well as access to free college education through their Live Better U program. To date, Sam's Club has seen an almost 70% conversion rate for interns moving into full-time roles and they have added more than 300 high school interns to the program this summer.

Through Unlock Potential, companies can help advance racial equity while preventing the devastating — and lifelong — economic consequences of a criminal record. A first-time sentence can decrease lifetime earnings by more than 30%. A criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50%, and the magnitude of the criminal record penalty is twice as large for Black applicants as for white applicants.

[Read More: Sam’s Club gets Georgia-Pacific brands delivered to stores 24/7]

Also, Black Americans are currently incarcerated at five times the rate of whites, and Black youth are up to six times as likely as whites to be "opportunity youth" — a term which refers to individuals aged 16-24 years old who are not in education or employment. By creating career pathways to prevent incarceration, businesses joining Unlock Potential can disrupt intergenerational cycles of poverty.

Sam's Club joins American Family Insurance, Ben & Jerry's, and Delta Air Lines in Unlock Potential's design phase — providing feedback about the structure of the program with input from experts and community-based organizations. Unlock Potential will then launch a 12-month pilot program in October.

More information about the program can be found at

This story originally appeared on Chain Store Age

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds