How can retailers continue to develop talent in the loss prevention field, and how can companies create internship programs to identify future LP superstars? Those were some of the questions being asked – and answered – at today’s session on “Higher Education in Loss Prevention” at NRF’s 2012 Loss Prevention Conference.
During the session, faculty from Northern Michigan University walked through their Loss Prevention Management program, which they launched in 2007 after consulting with a number of retailers in the NRF community about skills sets needed and industry trends impacting the loss prevention profession. The program, which awards graduates with a fully online-accredited baccalaureate degree, has graduated over a dozen students with an average 3.5 GPA.
There’s no disputing among retail LP executives that these types of degrees are beneficial. According to executives surveyed, candidates with bachelor’s degrees have an advantage in the workplace when it comes to both landing a job and getting promoted. The survey also found that staff members with specialized degrees add credibility to their department among others in the organization and also with law enforcement and other outside groups, which is why post-high-school degrees are important.
That said, there appears to be a disconnect between many academic programs and retail loss prevention. According to a Northern Michigan University survey, 58% of retail loss prevention executives said academic professors know little about professional opportunities in loss prevention, and 52% said current students in important programs like criminology had little to no knowledge of LP. There is a need for retailers to collaborate with universities to make sure professors are aware of how our fast-paced industry is changing.
But in order to grow today’s students into tomorrow’s LP leaders, retailers must come to the table, according to Gander Mountain loss prevention manager Andrew Barborak. Barborak, who began his LP career with Target while still in college, talked about the importance of creating community and university partnerships to highlight the opportunities of retail careers, and walked through his company’s internship program, which helps the company identify potential future superstars.
Before starting an internship program at your company, Barborak advised thinking critically about what you have to offer an intern, ensuring that you have both staffing and time to make it a mutually beneficial experience. He also advised researching colleges and universities to identify potential partners for internship programs.
Next, Barborak discussed the importance of outlining the program – looking at other internship opportunities at the company and considering crafting your program around others that are already in place. It’s then important to determine the length of the internship and whether it will be paid or awarded college credit, he said.
In order for interns to have a successful experience with your company, Barborak suggested ensuring that they have a seat at the table right from the beginning, being utilized to conduct field work, act as a witness during interrogations, and offering constant feedback on professional development. “We are in a unique position to have interns involved in everything we’re doing,” he said. And giving interns a front seat on the world of retail loss prevention might not only teach them that retail means careers – it also might help companies find their next loss prevention superstar.