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Walmart Greeter Today, Refrigeration & HVAC technician tomorrow: Taking Employee Training to a New Level

Happy young female cashier scanning food products chosen by customer

“Do you know why I hired you?”  my Eckerd Drug store manager asked back in 1990 as I was just beginning my first job as an eager 15-year-old in high school.   

“Two reasons,” he continued.  “You are the only 15-year-old who I had ever encountered to show up with a resume in hand.  But that was not the primary reason for hiring you.”  

Intrigued, I had to imagine what the turning point in the interview process had been.  Maybe my charm?  Quick wittedness?  Attention to detail?  Maybe it was the well written objective statement on the resume? 

 “You are tall,” he said, interrupting my visions of self-grandeur.  

“Everybody here is short.  We needed someone who could reach the top shelves without a ladder.”

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So, there you have it. My career in pharmacy began simply because I was 6’1” at the age of 15. And, indeed, one of my primary responsibilities was keeping the top shelves organized and retrieving the occasional box fan from the upper ledge. Of course, I had other responsibilities, including operating the cash register at the front of the store, blowing up helium balloons for birthday parties, and marking items for sale according to the current sales circular. Pharmacy, however, was not one of those initial responsibilities. The pharmacy was an inner sanctum of specialized knowledge and skill, at least in my mind at the time. And I was completely satisfied with learning the workings of the helium tank and mechanics of building the new seasonal aisle, whether that be an aisle full of Valentine’s candy or assorted summer themed sundries.

Then, everything changed. Someone in the pharmacy quit, right in the midst of our rolling out the latest line of pool floats, box fans, and plastic lawn chairs! The pharmacy was a critical part of operations, and the need was immediate. It could not wait for an ad to be posted in next Thursday’s local newspaper and the subsequent interviewing process. Moreover, it could not be trusted to an unknown person. Ideally, it would be someone who already knew how to run the register, had a record of reliability, and had earned the trust of customers and the team. Thus, came my first experience with being promoted internally!

Keep in mind, though, that there was a huge learning curve ahead. This was the early 90’s. There were few, if any, formal pharmacy technician training programs. Online training was unheard of; at best, onsite training was limited to a library of VHS tapes with an amusingly low acting budget. There were no regulations from the state board of pharmacy as to who could or could not assist in the pharmacy, so training was often at the store level exclusively. A white lab coat was ordered, and I was given a new engrained name tag bearing the designation of “drug clerk”.

The company found value in promoting from within. It was quick and it came with the added bonus of investing in an employee who had already showcased the base skill set that was needed. They recognized the advantages, and I was able to work beneath a team of excellent pharmacists. To say that I learned a lot over the coming high school years would be an understatement. This job, of course, is what sparked my interest and confidence in pursuing a career as a pharmacist.

Last week, one of the headlines in the trade journals caught my attention around providing new training opportunities for existing employees:

“With the country facing a shortage of skilled trade workers, we’re creating pathways for our own associates to fill these critical jobs in our stores and supply chain facilities. We’re piloting a new Associate to Technician program with 100 associates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that will help hourly store and supply chain associates move into facilities maintenance, refrigeration and HVAC, reliability and automation technician roles.”1

This is precisely the idea that my store manager at Eckerd Drug had back in the 90s, with the training element on steroids! Want a refrigeration or HVAC technician who has already proven themselves as being reliable, detail oriented, and meticulous? Train an employee who has already proven to be those things! Technical elements can be taught; an employee with a demonstrated proficiency in prioritized softer skills is worth that investment.

So, will today’s greeter at Walmart be tomorrow’s Walmart HVAC technician? For at least 100 associates in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, that may be the case! I truly hope that this model proves to be successful. Walmart has always been seen as an industry leader. The implications of this initiative in other areas is, indeed, profound. It completely turns the hiring paradigm upside down. No longer will Walmart be hiring a trained HVAC technician with an unknown or unproven set of fundamental employment skills. Instead, they will be TRAINING an employee with demonstrated soft skills to “build” the employee that they would want to hire.

Could the same model be applied to pharmacy technicians? Well, my 1990’s store manager would say, “Yes!” And, I would tend to agree, though I might not have answered as confidently in 1990 as I would today. In contrast to my own training experience in 1990, the training opportunities today are abundant, robust, and engaging. PTCB, the largest certification board for pharmacy technicians, has invested heavily in pharmacy technician credentialing and partnering with companies like PharmCon freeCE to provide completely recognized didactic programming that can supplement and mirror a technician’s experience in the pharmacy itself, whether that be a brand-new employee or a certified technician who is learning more advanced skills.

PharmCon’s Pharmacy Technician Boot Camp is a prime example of a tool that a pharmacy may effectively use to promote from within. Like Walmart’s initiative in Texas with refrigeration and HVAC technicians, it carries the potential of turning the hiring paradigm upside down!

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The Pharmacy Technician Bootcamp is one of the best ways to become a pharmacy technician

As a PTCB-recognized program, it affords ANY employee selected by pharmacy management the opportunity to successfully complete the PTCE, the most widely recognized certification exam in the industry.  Moreover, it supplements the experiences that the employee is learning from every day in the workplace.  No longer are employers given the single option of hiring an educated and trained employee with an unknown work ethic.  Increasingly, employers are afforded the option of “building their own employee” with a modest investment in training.

So, who is tomorrow’s HVAC professional?  Who is tomorrow’s refrigeration technician?  Who is tomorrow’s pharmacy technician?  It just might be the friendly and helpful “kid” inflating the balloons for your next birthday party!

Interested in group purchasing? Our senior sales executives are standing by and ready to answer your questions. Contact us here. 

Levy, S. (2024, June 5). Walmart launches associate bonuses, new opportunities. Drug Store News.  

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