Harry Pfitzer has a plan: he wants to be the head manager of a retail store. He has a long way to go and a lot to learn before that can take place, but Harry is well on his way, thanks to Klamath Community College’s new Retail Management Certificate.
KCC’s first graduate of the less-than-one-year certificate program, Harry began working at Safeway the day he graduated. "It was kind of a big day," he said with a grin during a recent conversation at his place of work.
The Retail Management Certificate, which is endorsed by The Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC), is offered at community colleges throughout Oregon and other western states. It has been available at KCC since late 2010. The certificate’s curriculum was "developed out of a collaborative effort between several food industry and college professionals and encompasses several business essentials, including the ‘soft skills’ of management and communication required for a career in the retail food industry," according to the WAFC.
Jesse Westling, Store Manager of the Safeway where Harry works, says his store is happy to partner with KCC and having the certificate available locally will be a benefit to his company. "It will certainly give us a larger pool of qualified workers to draw from," he said. Other local corporate sponsors include Albertson’s and Fred Meyer. Jesse has noticed something else that benefits his store. "I can’t say if it’s just the kind of worker Harry is, or if it’s due to his training in the Retail Management program, or both, but Harry has knowledge and skills that we don’t usually see in entry-level employees."
Harry gives much of the credit for those skills to the program and KCC. "The program taught me to see things from a business standpoint. Now, when I see something that needs to be done or I’m asked to do something I don’t normally do, I don’t think of it as extra work, I think of how it benefits the company," he said.
Both Harry and Jesse agree: retail is a great profession for someone going to college or with a busy family life. "At most large stores, there’s somebody working in some capacity 20 hours a day, seven days a week," Jesse said. "Schedules are pretty flexible, there’s a lot of opportunity for advancement and growth, and there are often opportunities to relocate to different towns, or even different states if that’s what you want."
Before being promoted to management, Harry still must build experience and go through Safeway’s own management training program, but with his Retail Management Certificate complete, Harry is on a fast track to do just that. "I know I’m on my way," he said. "And without the training and skills I received at KCC, that path would be a lot longer. I learned in less than one year many things that it takes people years and years to learn outside of the classroom. Now I just have to get the kind of retail experience that can’t be found in the classroom."
The Retail Management Certificate is designed to give students an understanding of the fast-paced challenges prevalent in the retail industry and a basic understanding of the scope of the retail manager’s job while preparing students for success. For more information, contact program advisor Linda Davenport at 541-880-2241.