Ken’s Krew utilizes NRF Foundation RISE Up program to help people secure employment

How RISE Up credentials bolster training and skill building
By Mary Rowedder

The NRF Foundation’s RISE Up credential program has taken a prominent place in classrooms and training courses across the country including with Ken’s Krew, a nonprofit organization that provides job training, placement and support for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Many people with disabilities face challenges when seeking employment; Ken’s Krew’s mission is to help them land and maintain a job. The organization partners with retailers like The Home Depot, CVS and Walgreens to help secure members’ employment. 

RISE Up training program

More than 58,000 RISE Up credentials were earned in 2023. Learn more.

Ken’s Krew has integrated the NRF Foundation’s RISE Up training program into their existing training courses, offering the Retail Industry Fundamentals and Customer Service & Sales credentials. Melissa Tkacs-Soli, Connecticut vocational coordinator for Ken’s Krew, has helped over 50 people receive their RISE Up certificate over the last eight months.

Here are some ways Tkacs-Soli utilizes the RISE Up program in the nonprofit’s training courses and the impact RISE Up has on its member workers.

RISE Up in training programs

With the combination of Ken’s Krew’s coaches, who are well-versed in working with people with disabilities, and the Rise Up credentials, Tkacs-Soli says they can adapt and break down the curriculum in a way that works for its members.

Tkacs-Soli teaches her courses over a 10-week period, conducting class activities and giving students the opportunity to interact with classmates and apply skills being learned. She says students on the wait list for the Retail Industry Fundamentals course primarily are unemployed or seeking retail employment; this course gives them a taste of what retail is and what it may be like to hold a position within the industry. Currently Ken’s Krew is rolling out the Customer Service & Sales course to all of its members in the workforce. 

“We use the two classes to build upon each other,” Tkacs-Soli says, describing how one is geared toward vocational training while the other is part of ongoing support.

Beyond skill building

In addition to RISE Up training providing Ken’s Krew members with much-needed skills, Tkacs-Soli emphasized the course’s social impact for the trainees as well. Through in-person training sessions, students can engage in rich discussion and dive into the curriculum together, sharing their thoughts and fostering friendships within the classroom. 

“Not only are they learning but it’s also adding a social aspect,” Tkacs-Soli says. “Most of our individuals that I am teaching the class to have disabilities and might have trouble finding social opportunities. So, when we are teaching the class, having that interaction and being able to talk with each other is just really awesome, too.”

A spotlight on success

Help and support doesn’t end when people receive their RISE Up credentials with Ken’s Krew. Tkacs-Soli says they follow workers through retirement or until they find new employment with a non-partner. 

RISE Up Credentials

Check out NRF Foundation's Rise Up credentials and discover which industry-recognized credential is right for your students.

The team is dedicated to following member workers on the path to success, conducting periodic spot checks to see how people are performing in their retail roles and to evaluate if they could benefit from any additional training or support. 

One person in Tkacs-Soli’s class who earned the RISE Up Customer Service & Sales credential received a Homer Award at The Home Depot, an internal employee award recognizing remarkable customer service. 

RISE Up is the NRF Foundation training and credentialing program that provides foundational employability skills to help people land jobs and get promoted in retail and beyond.

Our curriculum and exams are industry-recognized and were developed in collaboration with more than 20 retailers, including Walmart, Macy’s, The Home Depot, Burlington Stores, BJs Wholesale Club and Nordstrom. And we’re proud to partner with more than 3,000 training partners across the country.


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