Walmart expands worker training program, adds bonus plan

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 805 views 

Two years after Walmart tested a program for employees to become truck drivers, the retail giant is expanding the program to include training for employees to pursue maintenance, refrigeration and HVAC, and automation support jobs in the retail giant’s operations.

Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said thousands of hourly store employees will be eligible for the new training being tested in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro with 100 participants. He said often, an entry-level retail job can end up being a lifetime career, which was his case 31 years ago when he took a part-time job in the garden center at Store 100 in Bentonville.

Walmart said the employee tech training is a six-month program that allows participants to also earn their pay while they learn the new trade. The program seeks to meet the critical demand and limited workforce in the skilled trades. Walmart expects to increase its technician jobs from 450 to 2,000 in the next two years.

Technicians will work in HVAC and refrigeration, facilities maintenance or supply chain maintenance. Starting wages for the jobs will range from $19 to $45 per hour. Furner said the new program builds upon the success of the employee-to-driver training, which added 500 new truck drivers in the past two years. Just like the driver program, all the technicians will come from the hourly employee workforce.

“Our turnover has gone down over the past few years as we continue to invest in hiring wages, training and expanded benefits,” Furner said.

Walmart said it increased hourly wages by around 30% in the past five years, bringing the U.S. average hourly wage near $18. Walmart also expanded health care options, added family adoption benefits and complimentary college education for employees seeking advancement.

Lo Stomski, Walmart’s chief talent officer, said employees asked for a faster track in the certification programs that can be completed in four months. She said Walmart now offers 50 of the short-form certifications to hourly employees, which leads to higher pay and career advancement. Examples of those programs include optical technicians, pharmacy technicians and software engineers.

Walmart also announced a new bonus plan for hourly employees. Furner said full- and part-time hourly store employees can earn higher bonuses based on store performance metrics and customer service goals. The bonus cap is $1,000 annually and will be paid to employees with one year on the job.