SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. -- Seven New Jersey retailers and a vocational school here have begun what industry sources say is the nation's first technical training school for supermarkets.
The curriculum teaches high school students the skills needed for a career in the food industry and gives supermarket staff refresher courses in store operations, which have become increasingly complex with technological advances.
Opened last month, the Supermarket Technological Training Academy here is a part of the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools. It is the combined two-year effort of organizer Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., and A&P in Montvale, Grand Union Co. in Wayne, Kings Super Markets in West Caldwell, Mayfair-Foodtown Supermarkets in Elizabeth, Pathmark Stores in Woodbridge, and Malvern, Pa.-based Acme Markets, which has stores in New Jersey.
"We knew we were becoming much more complex, bigger, harder to manage, and we needed specially trained people. There was no training program to bring new people up to speed, so we said 'What if we had a technology academy to do this,' " said Jean Pillet, Wakefern's manager of retail management development.
The school features a 3,700-square-foot supermarket, open to the public three days a week, and 1,200 square feet of classroom and training space, which contain about $250,000 of equipment.
Courses range from customer service to scanner operations. Students will learn to price, sell, produce and promote products, design store interiors and manage operations.
Retailers are contributing up to $50,000 in inventory. The supermarket was started with a $100,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Education.
The school grew out of the success of 30 other training schools for special needs students that Wakefern is sponsoring in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.