Funded by Walmart Giving’s $100 Million Retail Opportunity Initiative, Hope Street Group launched the Retail Opportunity Network (RON) in 2015. In May 2019, Hope Street Group partnered with FSG, a mission-driven consulting firm with experience in community management and a contributor to the RON, to help the Network transition into a new phase and take the reins of this learning community. Learn more about their latest work with the RON by visiting retailopportunitynetwork.org.


RON is a collection of over 70 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. Between 2015-2019, Hope Street Group collaborated with RON members to share best practices, collective learnings, and promote solutions designed to address signaling efficiencies across the retail sector.


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.


Learn more about RON’s impact from 2015-2019 by reading our RON Impact Report.


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]

Retail America: Pathways to Opportunity

Don’t miss the archive of the 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.


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.


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.

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