Walmart has offered its more than 1.4 million U.S. employees a new perk: access to college degrees at an affordable price.
Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., which in years past has helped workers complete their high school education or get a GED, is hoping that the latest benefit will be helpful in recruiting as well as retaining higher quality employees at the entry level in a tight labor market across the U.S.
The retailer has teamed up with Guild Education a startup based in Denver to offer its employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in supply-chain or business management. The cost will be one dollar per day at one of three universities that are non-profit and have online programs: the University of Florida, Bellevue University and Brandman University. The three have been successful in working with students who are adults.
The retailer is planning to at some point expand to other degrees. It will offer classes in college-prep for employees who require additional helping in moving from high school level to higher education. The cost of the tuition, books and fees is being subsidized by Walmart through eliminating need for student loans.
Full-time as well as part-time employees who have worked at Walmart for 90 days or more can qualify, said the retailer. Approximately 68,000 of the 1.4 million employees at Walmart in the U.S. are expected to enter the program during over the first five years, said an executive at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
CEO at Walmart Greg Foran said that the company knows that learning opportunities and training empower associates to deliver to the customer while advancing and growing in their own careers.
This move is another example of how retailers, as well as restaurant chains and other businesses in the service industry have come under heavy pressure to have entry-level workers with higher skills as their jobs become more complicated because of the increase in shopping online, more competition and shoppers becoming more demanding.
The partnership between Walmart and Guild Education goes beyond the current program at Walmart covering the cost of employees and any eligible members of their family for earning their high school diploma and a GED. The company also grooms managers at the Walmart Training Academy.
Guild Education also works with other nationwide chains such as Taco Bell, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Lowe’s.