New Costco bursary bulks up UFV Business

UFV Business alumnus Mark Johnston

Everything’s big with Costco.

Big stores, big parking spots, big bags of frozen berries.

And now, a big donation.

“Any time we can have a relationship with people who are going through business leadership educational training, it’s good for our company. We want to get involved in the local community and support businesses, jobs, and education,” says Johnston, an alumnus of UFV’s Business degree program.

“I told him that we have a great university in the Fraser Valley, that I graduated from there and a lot of UFV students work for me and it would be great if we could support them,” he recalls of the Ottawa chat. His colleague went to work on the bursary.

“The next thing I knew I got a call from the university saying ‘thanks for the bursary’, so that was fantastic.”

The bursary is building interest right now, thanks to the Costco donation. The annual funding is targeted to those with financial need, and not necessarily tied to academic performance.

The financial assistance could very possibly end up helping a future Costco employee — though connections to the chain are not required to receive the bursary.

“We hire a lot of UFV students and alumni,” Johnston says.

“I like working with students, they’re always good employees, and a lot already know each other so it’s a good environment for them to come into.”

Like Johnston did nearly 30 years ago, many UFV students embrace Costco’s College Student Retention Program — starting at the store in their first or second years over the summer, then working weekends during school semesters before returning the following summer.

“So they’ve got a guaranteed job every summer while maintaining their hire date, wage, connections,
you name it.”

Mark Johnston and AK Sharma having a little fun at Costco.

During his interview, Johnston shared his office with AK Sharma, a BBA graduate from UFV Chandigarh currently enrolled in Costco’s management training program.

“AK’s been awesome for us, and he’s a great example of how a lot of Costco training and promotion is done from within. We typically won’t hire a business grad into a management position, we’d hire them into a cashier position or stocker, have them learn our business a little bit, then if they showed potential in leadership, we’d start them on one of our leadership training programs and give them an overall view of what Costco does.”

Johnston oversees 25 managers at the Abbotsford Costco, and a total of nearly 400 employees.

“We say to people that whatever your degree is in, there’s probably a job at Costco that could use that,” he says.
“Hopefully the new bursary finds people needing that extra bump. It could be the difference that allows them to continue their education and land meaningful, rewarding employment — whether that’s here or elsewhere, we’re more than happy to help.”

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