In the rapidly changing retail industry, many people are looking to change careers. Some individuals are seeking opportunities to break into the retail industry while others are focused enhancing skill sets and advancement.  Some of these individuals may be between careers.


Your Career in the Walmart Supplier Community: Gaining Entry, Enhancing Analytical Skills and Staying Relevant

by Monica Whitaker


In the rapidly changing retail industry, many people are looking to change careers. Some individuals are seeking opportunities to break into the retail industry while others are focused enhancing skill sets and advancement.


Some of these individuals may be between careers. The Certified Retail Analyst program through NorthWest Arkansas Community has been a solution for many graduates.


Michael Rosen knew he needed a change - a major change.


"I was tired of working dead-end jobs and needed to be challenged and grow," he said. "I wanted a better job and the chance to earn more money."


Rosen knew the retail industry in northwest Arkansas offered a lot of opportunity, and he was good with data. "So, I put the two together and signed up at NWACC to be a Certified Retail Analyst," he recalled.


When Rosen completed the program, he found more than just a new career path. "I gained a good mentor who helped me get the job I currently have," he said. "Now we work together on the same team. I have a new job, working for a great company and a great team."


He's a strong champion of NWACC's CRA program and the promise it can deliver.


"I feel like my team sees my potential, embraces my new ideas, and gives me opportunity to participate and make an impact on the business," he said. "For the first time in my adult life, I wake up in the morning excited about going to work. This program didn't just change my career; it changed my life."


Teresa Warren, director of retail and supplier education at NWACC, said Rosen's an example of many students who seize on the opportunity that the CRA certificate can provide. Studying for the CRA role gave him the tools and skills he needed to be successful and he then leveraged that opportunity to land his new job.


Rosen's in good company. Statistics show that 87 percent of CRA graduates acquire a job within the first year. Students who enter the program are committed to doing the work - there's a 75 percent retention rate in the core program. Core classes include Retail Industry Foundations, Retail Link Data Management, Retail Supply Chain & Replenishment, Retail Tools Integration, Retail Strategic Analysis and Retail Analytic Techniques.


All classes are taught by experienced retail professionals from both Walmart and the supplier community. All adjunct instructors work in the retail industry and teach in the evenings.


Rosen's an example of someone who studied in the program to get a foot in the supplier community door. Others opt for the CRA training to advance or shift careers.


Dan Piotrowski had worked more than 13 years in the Consumer Products Goods industry in northwest Arkansas when he enrolled.


He sought to sharpen his skills and strengthen his technical and analytical abilities. He also wanted to be able to network and remain close to the ever-changing retail and vendor community.


For Piotrowski, the CRA program offered a way to check all of those boxes.


"The courses offered, led by experienced industry leaders, have given me fundamental learnings and up-to-date skills in the classroom paired with 'real life' industry experiences," he said. "This allowed me to expand my career and provided additional opportunities outside of my past roles in supply chain."


NWACC's Warren said the program meets the needs of people already working in the supplier community, and it also provides the technical, collaborative, critical thinking and strategic skills for those wanting to make a change.


The program has been in operation for almost 18 years and is the only one of its kind. Based on a partnership with Walmart, students have Retail Link user IDs during training. The CRA program is now in open enrollment for the fall semester with the next classes beginning Sept. 5. For more information, visit www.nwacc.edu/CRA, email retail@nwacc.edu or call 479-619-4116.


CRA alumni success stories also include people like Kevin Stoops, who graduated in 2013. Stoops recently received the CEO Award from Proctor & Gamble senior leadership. That recognition usually goes to more tenured P&G employees with a history of leadership and excellence. In Stoops' case, the CRA training was instrumental in receiving the prestigious award.


Using the skills and expertise he acquired in the CRA training, Stoops was instrumental in defining and executing a logistical precedence at both Walmart and P&G. He guided the shipping and delivery of 176 trailers of new innovation merchandising to 42 Walmart distribution centers within an eight-hour window.



Monica Whitaker.  Writer for Firefly Marketing, LLC including SupplierLife.com and FamilyLifeNWA.com

Monica Whitaker, education and enrichment writer for www.SupplierLife.com and www.FamilyLifeNWA.com