Walmart announced, the same day as its Annual Formal Business Meeting for Shareholders begins, a new education benefit for all full-time, part-time and salaried Walmart and Sam’s Club store, supply chain and home office associates that covers the cost for associate and bachelor’s degrees in Business or Supply Chain Management. On the conference call that announced the program to the media, Julie Murphy EVP of People at Walmart said that this program was key to “win the future of retail.”
In a statement released by Walmart, Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart US said, “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.”
All Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in the US will be eligible as soon as they’ve been with the company for 90 days. It applies to all part-time, full-time, and salaried employees.
Walmart hopes that helping send its workers back to college will keep them with the company.
To make this possible, Walmart is partnering with Guild Education, a tuition reimbursement and education platform that helps large employers extend education benefits, including tuition reimbursement, to workers.
Walmart has partnered with three non-profit universities where its employees can earn a degree online while working:
- University of Florida in Gainesville (Florida)
- Brandman University (California)
- Bellevue University (Nebraska)
The news of this program comes as many businesses in the U.S. today face a tighter labor market, and competition for the best talent is intensifying. Chains like Starbucks and Chipotle have started offering similar education perks to get workers to stick around.
Earlier this year, Walmart hiked its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the U.S. to $11, while also expanding maternity and parental leave benefits. The retailer also has been testing out a more lax dress code in certain markets to allow jeans.
The company said it estimates as many as 68,000 of its employees initially could sign up for the new college program. Walmart employs 1.5 million in the U.S. The company declined to comment on how much this initiative will cost it.
Currently, Walmart helps workers complete their high school education and take the GED. With the new program, they will be able to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in either business or supply chain management (with more degree options expected to be added over time). And unlike some other programs, Walmart hasn’t set a minimum GPA requirement, so long as employees pass their courses.
Julie Murphy, executive vice president of Walmart’s U.S. people division, explained on a call with members of the media that there’s also no penalty for those people who choose to stop the program early. It’s designed to “give employees the confidence to learn and grow with Walmart,” she said.
Walmart is not the only company helping its employees with education benefits. Among others, many companies ranging from Fidelity and PriceWatershouseCoopers (PwC) to Aetna and Penguin Random House help their employees pay off student loans.
Here, Walmart is helping its employees avoid student loans altogether – and helping its associates to build lasting skills to expand their professional future.
Way to make lemonade.