Whitefish Bay-based Sendik’s Food Markets has partnered with Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon to offer a scholarship program aimed at training future managers for its stores.
The Sendik’s Food Markets Scholars Retail Management Program will enroll six students in the fall, each with a $5,000 scholarship. The scholarship is renewable for four years.
During the school year, Sendik’s Scholars will take courses in Concordia’s School of Business Administration, including its existing communication and retail management courses and three newly created courses – Grocery Retail 1, 2 and 3, said David Borst, dean of the School of Business Administration.
Each summer, Sendik’s Scholars will be placed in an internship in the Sendik’s organization, with opportunities to advance as they gain experience. The total internship requirement is 240 hours.
Upon graduating, the scholarship recipients will be placed in a mid-level management role within the Sendik’s organization, where they will manage up to 60 employees and oversee millions of dollars worth of inventory.
The program will provide Concordia students with leadership training and job security coming out of school while supporting the school’s efforts to fulfill employment opportunities in the community, Borst said.
“There’s a disconnect for a lot of jobs out there,” Borst said. “We’re certainly a believer here that really it’s important for us as a business school to marry up with businesses and meet their needs.”
Ted Balistreri, Sendik’s co-owner, will help to develop the Sendik’s Scholars Program coursework, and Concordia’s existing faculty will teach the courses, Borst said.
“We hope to let young people know about these jobs from the inside out,” he said.
Sendik’s chose Concordia because the cultures of the organizations were a match, with emphasis on values and work ethic, Balistreri said.
“They’re a good-sized match for us. We like the fact that they’re a local university, obviously we’re a local company,” he said. “In discussing with them, they were willing to develop a program around our needs and make it very meaningful for the students and for us.”
The partnership affords students in Concordia’s business school the opportunity to gain real life business skills, Balistreri said. They’ll start in entry level operational positions at area stores and work up from there.
“It’s really going to be a bottom up type of program,” he said. “It’s similar to what a lot of our leaders have done.”
Sendik’s is committed to an annual $30,000 investment for the foreseeable future, Balistreri said. The family plans to continue opening stores throughout the area, making additional management positions available.
“This will not be able to fulfill all of our management needs as a company,” he said. “We have roughly 175 management positions at our company and growing. We’re hoping this will be a nice supplement to the growing needs of our company.”
Historically speaking, a program like Sendik’s Scholars would not be tackled by a four-year university, but Sendik’s was looking for candidates with strong critical thinking, technical, entrepreneurial, leadership and communication skills to fill its management positions, Borst said.
Concordia is no stranger to corporate partnerships. It also offers a sports management program in cooperation with Elite Sports Clubs, which has five locations in the Milwaukee area, and a hospitality program partnership with a Milwaukee hospitality company.
The school’s baseball team, the Lakeshore Chinooks, is sponsored by Grafton manufacturer Kapco Inc.
“We are a university that’s willing to make changes in our curriculum and do things differently to accommodate a business,” Borst said. “A lot of schools are simply not providing the workforce the workers they need.”
Sendik’s is helping Concordia review applicants for the program. Balistreri is seeking candidates who understand the company’s approach and want to be a part of a local family business that makes a difference in people’s lives.
“We’re looking for somebody who can understand the servant leadership model that we employ at our company, along with the interpersonal skills to handle a diverse workplace and ever-changing grocery environment,” Balistreri said. “It’s really an effort on our part to introduce college aged students to the dynamic retail environment and help them understand that a meaningful career is available to them in this industry.”