New CVS employees learn their lessons before entering stores

Vicky Dierks, a CVS trainer, works with Mardochee Belony (left) at the mock-up store at the Jewish Vocational Center in downtown Boston.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Vicky Dierks, a CVS trainer, works with Mardochee Belony (left) at the mock-up store at the Jewish Vocational Center in downtown Boston.

The shelves are stocked with cough medicine, tissue paper, and the supplies you’d find at a drugstore. But what looks like a mini CVS is entirely fake.

The cash register has only bogus dollar bills, the pharmacy counter doesn’t fill prescriptions, and the credit card scanners won’t accept your Visa. Welcome to the CVS training center at the Jewish Vocational Service in downtown Boston, a mock-up store where new employees get schooled on everything from how to greet a customer to working the cash register.


The training facility is one of a handful CVS has on the East Coast and Midwest. The Boston center was launched in 2008 and trains about 3,500 CVS employees every year, said David Casey, the vice president of workforce strategies for CVS Health Corp.

“Employees are trained on everything,” Casey said, from what to expect on the first day of work to advance leadership skills. The classes are targeted to “every position and every need for our retail stores.”

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On a recent Wednesday, new CVS employees at Boston area stores took turns role-playing clerks and customers. They learned how to stock shelves, cope with tough customers, and organize their cash register counters during lulls.

Having a center for training, as opposed to doing it on the job, helps novices get more comfortable with the layout of the store and focus on learning the ropes without the distractions of a bustling retail operation, said CVS trainer Vicky Dierks.

Busy managers don’t always have the time to work with new employees and “help them get out of their shell,” Dierks said.


Most employees quickly learn how to operate the cash register, Dierks said. The tougher exercises are on those softer skills, such as how to make small-talk with customers and ensure their store experience is pleasant.

Emmett Dixon, who will be working at the CVS store in Allston, said spending a few hours at the training center has helped prepare him for his shift.

“I know what I’m going to be expecting at the store,” Dixon said.

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