UAA’s retail management certificate garners support of local retail industry

October 23, 2013

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This story by Kirstin Olmstead was originally published in the Insider, the official blog of the UAA Community & Technical College.

Just a year after its approval by the Board of Regents, UAA’s new retail management certificate has seen a surge of interest by members of Alaska’s retail industry.

One of the Community & Technical College’s (CTC) newest programs, the certificate was created to prepare workers for the burgeoning Alaska retail industry, a high-demand career field that has enjoyed substantial growth. According to Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, retailers are three of the top four largest private-sector employers in the state.

“We’re very excited to offer the retail management certificate,” said Dr. Stephen Strom, CTC associate dean of extended studies and workforce development. “The university is committed to partnering with industry to create programs that provide Alaskans with relevant training to fuel the state’s economic growth.”

The need for further workforce development in Alaska’s retail sector was first identified by the Western Association of Food Chains, an organization which initiates and supports education programs for employees in the food industry. This served as a catalyst for the certificate’s development bringing together industry leaders and educators from UAA’s Community & Technical College and College of Business & Public Policy.

The certificate’s curriculum encompasses several business essentials, including the communication and interpersonal skills required for career success in the retail industry. It is recognized by Western Association of Food Chain member companies as an important tool for developing the industry’s future leaders. Upon completion of the certificate, students who wish to continue their education can pursue an associate degree in general business or a bachelor’s degree in management.

“I see the retail management certificate program as an excellent way for our employees to start or continue their education since the classes are very relevant to the jobs they do every day,” said Bob Reorda, vice president regional operations manager of Safeway’s Northwest division. “Being able to see how the classroom information is transferable to the job creates a desire to continue the education process past this program and on to an associate or bachelor’s degree.”

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Cherie Phipps of the Western Association of Food Chains with Safeway’s Rob Backus (middle), district manager of the Northwest division and Bob Reorda, vice president regional operations manager of the Northwest division.

A cohort of Carrs-Safeway employees participated in pilot courses this past spring. They have continued with their second semester of courses this fall taught on site at the Carrs-Safeway training center in Anchorage.

A grand kickoff event for the certificate was held this past July at CTC’s Chugiak-Eagle River Campus, which houses and administers the certificate program. The event featured guest speaker Cherie Phipps, education coordinator for the Western Association of Food Chains.

Nearly 60 association member employees attended the kickoff, and key representatives were present from Fred Meyer, Carrs-Safeway and Costco. Afterward, program administrators saw an increase in enrollment as a number of Fred Meyer and Carrs-Safeway employees signed on for the fall semester.

“If we’re going to have a vibrant business, we need to change with the times,” said Delorie Dutcher, leadership development manager for Fred Meyer Stores. “We need new skill sets, tool kits and ways of thinking. The retail management certificate program can help us take our team to that next level.”

In addition to the one-year certificate, students in the program receive a Western Association of Food Chains certificate and honorarium, ACT WorkKeys national career readiness certificate, and potential interview and hiring preference with the association’s member companies in Alaska. A grant-funded career coach is also available to help students with practical tips on career readiness.

The 30-credit-hour certificate is offered jointly through the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community & Technical College. Credits are completely transferrable between the two universities.

For more information about the retail management certificate, visit the UAA Chugiak-Eagle River campus website.

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