The clock is already ticking in the search for this year's ACS Scholars ­ the convenience sector's prestigious training award. The challenge this year is to develop a strategic plan to attract, develop and keep staff in a c-store environment. The entry form offers four examples of possible ideas to consider. These include collaboration with TECs and other local colleges for vocational training and development schemes. Candidates for the award must be employed as either a retailer in the convenience sector or as a supplier to convenience retailers. The prize for the two winning research papers is a trip to the National Association of Convenience Stores annual convention and exhibition in October to be held in New Orleans. Last year's winners, Iain Troup of Aberness Foods and Justine Berry of Kraft Jacobs Suchard, have both been promoted in their own companies and both agree the visit was a powerful learning experience. "The trip to NACS was the most rewarding prize," says Berry. "I have gained experience that would not have been possible without the scholarship." Troup also acknowledges the value of the study tour ­ but warns against complacency: anyone considering entering will have to give it 100% effort to win a place on the NACS tour. It would be only part of the story to say that the trip gave the pair a boost to their confidence and widened their horizons: they will also be joint chairmen of the ACS conference in May. This year's entries will be judged by a panel of three ­ an ACS Premier Club member, an ACS retail member and John Wood, deputy editor of The Grocer's sister paper C-Store. Finalists will present their papers at the beginning of August. {{TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT }}