Like many young women growing up in disadvantaged communities in Chile, Helen Mendoza began raising a family at an early age—delaying her education and first career steps in order to care for her children. By the time she was able to pursue a job, Helen lacked the training and experience needed to gain a foothold in a competitive labor market.

“We gave up everything to dedicate ourselves to our families,” says Helen, reflecting on her responsibilities as a young mother. “We became housewives, neglecting our own selves.”

Today, Helen is pursuing a new role—this time as an administrative assistant at a convenience store chain. Her entry into the fast-growing retail sector of Chile’s economy was made possible through the training and job placement support she received from the Social Retail School (Escuela Social de Ventas, or ESV). In 2015, the Walmart Foundation partnered with IYF, the National Training and Employment Service (SENCE), and Acento Consultores to scale the program to reach 5,000 Chilean youth and women like Helen. ESV is a an associated project of the New Employment Opportunities (NEO) initiative and contributes to NEO's goal of reaching one million youth.

The training in Chile is part of Walmart’s global commitment to equip 200,000 women in emerging markets for their first job in retail. The company made this pledge through its Global Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative, launched in 2011, to provide training, market access, and career opportunities to nearly a million women.

Through the ESV program, Helen received 200 hours of soft skills, IT, and retail training. SENCE also provides participants with a travel stipend, childcare if they need it, and access to paid internships with local employers.

With the training she received, Helen was well equipped to succeed in her new role. Within five months, she was promoted from sales clerk to administrative assistant. “What they taught us in the course prepared us well for what we encountered in real life,” says Helen, who every day uses the communication and teamwork skills she gained.

But the changes she experienced run deeper still. “I grew as a person, learning to express myself and get over my fears,” she adds, describing how the training strengthened her confidence and ability to set and achieve goals. Helen also started prioritizing her own needs and career. “It [the training] helped us realize that we can change many things and have lives beyond the demands of our families.” And Helen is not alone. In 2015, half of all ESV participants were mothers, with 60 percent being single mothers.

Helen’s new perspective on her life and goals doesn’t stop with getting a job. She plans to study for her high school equivalency test so she can pursue additional vocational or technical training. “We learned that it’s never to late to study,” she says. “More than anything, it [the course] helped me to recognize my own strengths.”