Walmart is offering its more than 1.4 million employees an opportunity at a college education, and their contribution will be as little as $1 a day. On Tuesday, the company unveiled a new associate education benefit program that it designed to help its workers with college enrollment and graduation.
Partnering with Guild Education, a leading education benefits platform, Walmart associates will be able to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees which the company says it will subsidize up to $1 a day for all its U.S. associates. Associates have two degree options: Business or Supply Chain Management degrees, which will be offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University, all non-profit schools that the company said it selected for their focus and outcome on serving working adult learners.
The company says the program reflects its commitment to train and educate its workers to advance in the jobs they do today—and in the future. The program, which will benefit its mostly young and/or working adult associates, seem to be a play by Walmart to prepare its employees to deal with an industry shift toward automation, when robots take over some of the human responsibilities in its stores. It’’ also a progressive move to mitigate potential job losses for people, particularly in low-skilled sectors, when the changes are inevitably made. According to Futurism.com, the retail giant is already testing the usage of robots in 50 of its locations nationwide.
“Investing in the personal and professional success of our associates is vital to Walmart’s future success. We know training and learning opportunities empower associates to deliver for customers while growing and advancing in their careers,” said Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROGRAM
Under the program, the associate contribution to a college degree would be just $1 a day. Walmart will subsidize the cost of tuition, books, and fees and students will not need to pay any upfront costs to attend classes, eliminating the need for student loan debt and addressing one the biggest hurdles that keep people from returning to college. Additionally, associates can jump-start their path to completion by earning college credit for paid training at Walmart Academies. Thousands of associates have already undergone academy and skills training equivalent to more than $210 million in college credits. This will save associates both time and money in completing their degree.
Walmart selected universities with a unique focus on serving working adult learners and top outcomes for the working adult demographic. Additionally, Walmart collaborated with the universities to tailor the curriculum to relevant skills for jobs and advancement across industries, both today and in the future.
Working with three universities that include both competitive and open-access programs, Walmart provides all associates a place to start. The goal is for all associates who apply for admission to be accepted. These universities have a programmatic dedication to high graduation rates for their students.
From day one, associates will receive support from a Guild Education coach on everything from the application and enrollment process to selecting the appropriate degree and getting credit for prior college and work experience. This type of counseling has been shown to help students complete their degree.
“Walmart has kicked off what might be the nation’s most scalable approach to creating educational opportunity for America’s workforce, now available to its U.S. associates and their families,” said Rachel Carlson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Guild Education. “Walmart is also leading innovation at the intersection of workforce development and higher education by helping associates earn college credit for their on-the-job training.”
Walmart is also committed to an independent evaluation of the outcome of its new offering. The Lumina Foundation has agreed to research and measure the impact and effectiveness of the offering and will work with the Walmart team to share the findings.
“Walmart is making a significant investment in its workforce that will not just help the company, but help shift how our society moves towards more affordable and accessible pathways for individuals to be recognized and rewarded for their work-based skills and knowledge, resulting in high-quality, relevant credentials. We applaud Walmart’s efforts,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and chief executive officer of the Lumina Foundation.