Retail giant Walmart will start offering its workers free college tuition and books. This covers more than 1.5 million people working for America’s largest employer. The program is part of Walmart’s latest efforts to attract new workers and keep existing ones.
$1 Billion Over Next Five Years For Career Training
Walmart said that they will invest around $1 bill over the next five years for training and development programs. Specifically, these programs are for those who want to advance their careers. Programs include careers in business administration, supply chain, and cybersecurity.
Lorraine Stomski, Walmart SVP of learning and leadership, talked about their program. “We are creating a path of opportunity for our associates to grow their careers at Walmart. This investment is another way we can support our associates to pursue their passion and purpose while removing the barriers that too often keep adult working learners from obtaining degrees,” she said.
Live Better U Program
Previously, the chain charged workers to pay $1/day to join the Live Better U education program. Beginning August 16, Walmart will now provide the courses for free. The program started three years ago in the hopes of helping workers get ahead with their careers within the company.
Participants can choose to enroll in programs from 10 academic institutions. The list includes the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, Purdue University Global, and Southern New Hampshire University.
Walmart said that more than 52,000 workers enrolled in LBU programs. In addition, 8,000 employees have already graduated since 2018. “Our education offerings tie directly to our growth areas at Walmart, and what better way to fill the pipeline of future talent than with our own associates,” Stomski remarked.
Walmart’s Hourly Wage Still Trails Its Competitors
This year, the retail giant made steps to boost pay for some hourly-paid workers. However, its average wage of $11 per hour badly trails its competitors. Rivals such as Amazon, Costco, and Target all offer starting wages of $15 per hour or above.
In addition, tuition assistance slowly faded from its role as a leading corporate benefit over the years. Once companies started cutting costs, free college tuition usually is the first to go. The current worker shortage changed things. It forced companies to reconsider offering free schooling. They hope to not just attract workers but get them to stay longer.
Free College Tuition Is An Attractive Benefit
However, the steep price of college tuition, which averaged $25,000 in 2019), is now ensuring that this benefit remains a highly attractive option when considering a job. Major US employers such as Home Depot, Chipotle, Best Buy, UPS, and FedEx offer up to $5,000 a year in free college tuition costs.
Meanwhile, coffee giant Starbucks provides its workers free online college degrees through Arizona State University.
Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School says that despite the seeming generosity, companies do have ulterior motives.
“The companies that are doing this — Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart — are very concerned about their reputation in the labor market, and they have the resources to do something about it. But these are not your father’s tuition reimbursement programs. They are far more targeted and self-interested than the traditional tuition reimbursement programs, where you can get them from any university and study whatever you want,” Cappelli said.
Watch the CBS News video reporting that Walmart offers to pay 100% of college tuition for employees:
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