5 Lessons from our University Panel Discussion.

November 17, 2021

University Panel Sheds Light on Student Motivations and Skillsets Entering Category Management.

Last month, the CMA’s University members gathered for a panel discussion on the current job market and skillsets of college graduates entering the Category Management and Shopper Insights workforce today. Our panelists included representatives from DePaul University, Texas Tech University, Xavier University, and The University of Texas at Tyler. These schools offer specific category management coursework and curriculum within their business programs, preparing the top talent entering our profession today.

During the discussions, the panelists covered what courses students are taking to prepare to enter the workforce, what hands-on industry experience they have, what technologies and datasets they are familiar with, tips on how to recruit top talent, and more.

Below are some key insights that were shared in the webinar.

1. Supply Outweighs Demand

Similar to other industries, demand for qualified students entering category management is at an all-time high with the supply of candidates lagging demand. The most successful brands and retailers recruiting are those that engage with students, faculty, and university programs before the traditional recruiting timeframes (internships typically offered in Fall to sophomores and juniors, full time job offers for seniors usually come in Spring). With demand for these roles being higher than supply, students are already receiving offers for jobs after graduation. Formalized partnerships with desired universities can provide exposure to top students early on in their college careers.

2. Insights on Entry-Level Roles

The most common entry level positions available for undergraduates within category management today are Category Management Analyst, Sales Analyst, and Digital/Social Media Analysts/Coordinators. Students in Master’s programs are more likely to go straight into planning and merchandising roles.

3. The Value of Work/Life Balance

Students’ principal motivations in their job search are work/life balance, company investment in their careers, corporate social responsibility, and commitment to sustainability. While hybrid/remote working is the reality today, panelists were unsure on the outlook long term and students seem to value general work life balance over specifically remote or hybrid positions. With the current reality of remote schooling, students are already gaining valuable experience collaborating remotely prior to entering the workforce.

4. Member Universities Offer a Leg Up

Students at CMA member universities have an impressive amount of industry experience upon graduation including analytics, data mining, sales, marketing, and shopper insights with specific data sources and programs including Nielson, IRI, Blue Yonder, SAP, and CRM systems. Students work through case studies with real CPG and retail companies as part of regular coursework, and some universities require internships and work experience prior to graduation.

5. Diversity and Inclusion are Priorities

Schools are working to promote diversity and inclusion within category management, offering programs and scholarships specifically designed to support underrepresented students and hosting careers fairs for minority students.

The full panel discussion is available to all CMA|SIMA members through our member Resource Library. Login here to access it now.

If you are interested in becoming a university business partner, reach out to Daniel P. Strunk, Sr. Vice President Certification & Education [email protected]

Not a member yet? Reach out for to Suzi Wirtz ([email protected]) to learn how you can get access to great content like this as a member of the association.