Low pay. Irregular hours.

… We haven’t even gotten to the “dealing with customers” part and already these common descriptors of working in a grocery store aren’t sounding like the most appealing long-term career prospect.

That’s an opening for Whole Foods Market, which is looking to improve on the grocery industry’s typical high-turnover workforce through its career development initiatives, per Axios.

Its tool of choice: Culinary apprenticeships

In September, CEO Jason Buechel said Whole Foods’ previous year saw 11k+ employee promotions, with an expanding roster of paid apprenticeship programs playing a key role in their internal development model.

  • Existing apprentice tracks: butchery, cheesemongering, bakery decoration.
  • Next additions: pizza-making, produce specialist, and fishmongering.

The on-the-job training programs are intensive, sometimes yearslong paths for Whole Foods employees, but there’s a prize at the end: expert-level certification and expanded growth opportunities.

It’s not a hard bargain for employees; for instance, would you rather pay ~$4k for an eight-month meat-cutting certification, or get paid while you complete that education?

More loyal employees mean more happy customers?

Six years after Amazon’s $13.7B acquisition of Whole Foods that sought to disrupt the grocery world, you can feel the tech giant’s DNA all over the stores — from expanded, redesigned stores to palm-reading payment tech — but only to limited effect.

  • For all the fanfare, the chain carries just a 1% share of the US grocery market.

Still, they can afford to play the long game, and they’re betting on long-lasting employee satisfaction — then projecting that team’s expertise to build on a reputation for higher-quality groceries — as a differentiator.

  • To wit, Whole Foods proudly hails itself as the world’s top employer of Certified Cheese Professionals.

Good for them. Just don’t come for our crown as the top employer of cheese-eating professionals.


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