It’s been two years since Walmart launched its $1-per-day college education benefit to employees. The retailer said Wednesday (June 10) it’s expanding the program to include certificates in skilled trades, digital programming certifications in technology, and healthcare.
The “Live Better U” education program has become one of the largest U.S. employer-based educational benefits programs. Walmart said more than 25,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club employees from all 50 states have taken advantage of education offerings, including $1 a day college degrees and free high school completion. The majority who have engaged in a LBU program are female, the average age is between 30 and 40, and 47% are people of color, Walmart said. The Bentonville-based retailer employs around 1.5 million people in its U.S. businesses.
“The current economic climate has only added urgency to the need for practical training and education opportunities for Americans, especially those who do not fit the historic profile of a full-time student,” said Julie Murphy, executive vice president of people division at Walmart U.S. “By adding digital courses and skilled trades to our education benefit, associates have access to even more in-demand skills so they can advance their careers, whether at Walmart or elsewhere.”
Walmart said the demand for jobs in the skilled trades continues to outpace the number of qualified applicants. Walmart hopes to help bridge the talent gap in the trades with the new program. A Deloitte study found that the skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million jobs unfilled by 2028. Walmart and its large network of suppliers have similar gaps in skilled trades roles.
As with Walmart’s debt-free college offering, those who take advantage of the skilled trades workforce certificates or digital certificates will pay only $1 a day. Most programs can be completed within one year or less, highlighting a move toward meeting the desire to gain skills quickly and throughout their career to succeed in a fast-changing job landscape. The benefit is open to all part-time and full-time Walmart employees from their first day of employment.
“One of the most exciting aspects of LBU is that those enrolled have significantly higher retention rates in their jobs at Walmart. Promotion rates are double amongst those who engage in an LBU program. Our goal in rolling back the eligibility date to the first day of employment is part of a strategy to engage associates on day one and identify these self-starters early in their Walmart careers,” said Murphy.
Walmart is partnering with Penn Foster to provide the online courses leading to the skilled trades certificates in six fields of facilities maintenance, industrial maintenance, HVAC/refrigeration, electrical, plumbing and construction trades. Once an employee completes a certificate program Walmart said it will support them in finding a relevant entry-level role at Walmart or with a member of Walmart’s contractor network.
Certificates in information technology and healthcare involved partnerships with eCornell and Southern New Hampshire University. The new programs will include data fluency and decision making as well as various technology certificates.
Walmart recognized earlier this year about inaugural graduates who completed either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree through the Live Better U program unveiled in the summer of 2018. In February, Walmart said there were more than 12,000 employees pursuing degrees through the LBU program.