Fry’s Food Stores has offered its associates a tuition reimbursement program through Rio Salado for years.
“We chose to work with Rio Salado for several reasons,” said Joe Bands, HR Field Trainer for Fry’s Food Stores. “The first reason is the flexibility of online classes, which many of our associates prefer. It gives them the ability to schedule school around their shifts, as opposed to a traditional classroom setting.”
Bands said the second reason centers on Rio Salado’s customer service.
“The support from Rio Salado’s staff embodies the spirit of customer service on the administrative side,” Bands said. “At what other community college in the state could an associate decide to start a class next Monday? The multiple start dates have led to a quadrupling of our enrollment rates.”
Recently, Fry’s Food Stores (as well as Basha’s, Safeway, Albertsons, Smart & Final) has begun paying up front for employees to take retail management classes for the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) certificate.
The WAFC is an organization that serves the food industry by providing educational programs for food industry associates. Many of the large grocery chains are WAFC members.
“We want to ensure food industry employees have the skills they need for success in retail leadership careers,” said Cherie Phipps, Director of the Retail Management Certificate for the WAFC. “In fact research shows that, over the long run, companies who develop their workforce and cultivate leadership significantly outperform companies who do not.”
Bands agrees with the importance of having an educated workforce.
“Our employees get great on-the-job experience,” Bands said. “The key to making them successful, well-rounded managers is this experience, along with mentorship. But adding in education can create a leader who can meet all challenges with the confidence and knowledge that a formal education affords them.”
Phipps also cites the need for education to keep up with changing times.
“Retail employs over 42 million people in the United States,” Phipps said. “In the past several years, the retail workplace has become far more sophisticated and technologically advanced. In fact, the need for people with skills in marketing, management, technology, budgeting, and leadership is at an all-time high.”
According to Phipps, over the next several years, the need will be even greater as baby boomers exit the industry.
“Retail companies want to cultivate a skilled talent pool to meet the projected growth and need to fill openings,” Phipps said.
At Fry’s, associates from courtesy clerks to operations management are seeking out the retail management certificate to transition to the next level.
“Our young and developing associates are taking classes to prepare for leadership roles and learn how to manage effectively and successfully,” Bands said. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, middle and senior managers are taking refresher courses to stay current on technology and new models of leadership.”
To learn more about Rio Salado’s retail management degree and certificate, visit www.riosalado.edu/retail.
By Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator at Rio Salado College. This story was also featured in several editions of the Arizona Republic on January 17.