Wakefern Takes Cashier Training to Philadelphia

Some disadvantaged and unemployed people living in Philadelphia's inner city will have an opportunity to become a cashier at one of 14 ShopRite supermarkets through Wakefern Food Corp.'s Partners in Training program. The program, supported by Wakefern, Elizabeth, N.J., is being rolled out next month by ABO Haven, a Philadelphia-based social services agency. This marks Wakefern's fourth partnership

CHICAGO — Some disadvantaged and unemployed people living in Philadelphia's inner city will have an opportunity to become a cashier at one of 14 ShopRite supermarkets through Wakefern Food Corp.'s Partners in Training program.

The program, supported by Wakefern, Elizabeth, N.J., is being rolled out next month by ABO Haven, a Philadelphia-based social services agency.

This marks Wakefern's fourth partnership with a social services agency working in conjunction with the wholesale cooperative in training and placing people to become future ShopRite cashiers.

Since the program began seven years ago, more than 600 people have been hired as ShopRite employees at 17 ShopRite supermarkets in New Jersey and Delaware, said Martin Glass, Wakefern's senior manager, human resources, who spoke here about the challenges and merits of the award-winning program during the Food Marketing Institute Show last week. Last year, FMI honored Wakefern with the Maxx Award for achieving its goal of improving people's lives by providing them with training and jobs.

Other agencies that Wakefern has worked with include New Community Corp., Newark, N.J., and Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

Glass said it costs $80,000 to set up the program with each agency. Wakefern supplies the front-end computers, equipment, training materials, product, mini ShopRite facility and oversight of the program.

The social services agencies administer the program and train potential employees. The goal is to provide employment opportunities to those within the communities that ShopRite serves through customer-focused training.

Glass said the program was at first difficult to get off the ground, with retention rates falling below expectations. However, Wakefern has been able to raise retention rates — employees are considered retained if they work a full year — from 40% in 2000 to 76% in 2006. Wakefern realizes a return on its training investment in less than six months, said Glass.

He said the program has made a difference in the lives of people. However, it takes a great deal of commitment to have an effective program that meets the goals of the company, he said. “There is a scarcity of resolve in companies to embark on this kind of program and stick it through no matter what happens,” said Glass, who added that many who have been hired through the program have been promoted to other positions with greater responsibilities at ShopRite.