Retail America: Pathways to Opportunity is a podcast that cuts through the myth of the retail apocalypse and showcase the incredible opportunities in today’s dynamic retail sector. Each short episode — streamed on this page, iTunes and via app — invites experts from various fields including retail, workforce development, technology and adult education to celebrate and discuss exciting new programs, research and innovations that connect with a growing audience of individuals and professionals interested in diving deeper into today’s hot topics in these fields. Retail America highlights the work of the Retail Opportunity Network, but also draws in third party perspectives to offer fresh insights on pervasive questions such as the future of work and technological innovation.


The newest episodes of Retail America are found at right and earlier episodes can be found at below the “Who” list of Retail Opportunity Network members.



Shemia Williams, Director of Programs from Charlotte Works, takes listeners beyond the retail sector to explore career pathways in healthcare and hospitality, the power of partnerships between employers and workforce intermediaries, and how these partnerships change the lives of frontline workers in this progressive community.


Eric M. Seleznow, Senior Advisor and Director of Jobs for the Future’s Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning, and Stephen Yadzinski, Managing Director of Acceleration for JFFLabs, explore the changing world of work in retail and discuss training solutions, including work-based learning and education technology, that innovative programs like JFFLabs’ Acceleration cohort promote.


Hope Street Group launched the Retail Opportunity Network (RON), funded by Walmart Giving’s $100 million Opportunity Initiative, in 2015. RON is a collection of more than 50 organizations working collaboratively to drive system change for the U.S. retail workforce by developing ways to make it easier for frontline retail workers to advance in their careers. This includes:

  • Generating and sharing insights into retail as a sector of opportunity,
  • Building effective approaches to retail training and advancement, and
  • Engaging retail employers to improve the ecosystem


RON members are changing how careers in retail are viewed by both workers and employers. Through a variety of competency-based strategies, RON members are creating greater access to entry-level jobs in retail and coupling that with training and development that demonstrate a clear career path for workers, so they have a better understanding of not only the opportunity for advancement, but what it takes to move up the ladder into middle-skill and management positions in retail.


With 1-in-4 jobs in the United States supported by retail, it is a crucial sector in our economy – and so are its 16 million workers. Retail jobs go beyond just sales jobs, and in fact, the sector offers a variety of desirable career opportunities for the American workforce – including jobs in software, IT, security and marketing, as well as careers in management.[1] Yet, retail has one of the highest turnover rates of any sector, meaning millions of Americans may be missing out on opportunities for a career path that offers advancement and income growth.[2]




Hope Street Group manages ongoing engagement with and among RON members, including hosting bi-annual convenings of network members, on-demand webinars, regular communications via newsletter and email alerts, and other strategies to strengthen collaboration and share best practices for driving system change. Learn more about our membership by clicking on our Retail Opportunity Network Member Map.

Retail America: Pathways to Opportunity

Don’t miss the archive of our Retail America podcast!

Episode 1: Retail is an Opportunity Sector

Julie Gehrki, Vice President of Programs at the Walmart Foundation, shares insights into retail as a sector of opportunity by highlighting Walmart’s best practices and strategies for advancing frontline retail workers.

Episode 2: How can Employers Overcome Low Unemployment?

Pat Steele, Project Director at Central Iowa Works, shares insights into how employers are overcoming low numbers of job applicants and providing wrap around services that overcome employment barriers as well as general insights into the Des Moines retail sector.

Episode 3: The Benefits of Upskilling Frontline Workers 

Jaime Fall, Director of UpSkill America, shares how upskilling programs benefit frontline workers and their employers, and provides insights from the latest upskilling programs across America.

Episode 4: New Approaches to Frontline Training 

Demetra Brown, Program Manager at Generation, explores new approaches to training, the training’s impact on frontline workers and employers’ perceptions on ROI from building frontline training programs.

Episode 5: Job Quality and Worker Mobility Matter 

Alita Bezanis, of Pete’s Fresh Market, Yesenia Cervantes, from Instituto del Progreso Latino and Jenny Weissbourd, from Reimagine Retail at the Aspen Institute, share insights into worker mobility, job quality and economic stability within the retail sector.

Episode 6: How Can Employers Better Support Frontline Workers? 

Amanda Willard, Senior Talent Acquisition Leader at T-Mobile and Nicole Trimble, Executive Director for the Talent Rewire initiative at FSG, discuss supporting frontline retail workers, developing ROI metrics for new frontline training systems and forming partnerships to recruit future frontline workers.


Holly Kurtz, Director of the Retail Sector Initiative at the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA), shares insights about the retail sector in Arizona and explores topics related to upward mobility, best practices for training frontline workers, employer engagement and future retail trends.


Lex Dennis, Director of Lifelong Learning at the Drucker Institute and Fred Teague, consultant for the High Potential Employee/Preferred Employer Program within the Lifelong Learning Initiative in South Bend, Indiana share insights about community engagement models, hallmarks and theories of change for the Lifelong Learning Initiative as well as ways the Drucker Institute and key community partners are connecting organizations and individuals ready to enter the South Bend workforce.

%d bloggers like this: