Target Ups the Ante on Wooing Workers

Retailer launches debt-free college program
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Target Ups the Ante on Wooing Workers
Target says it will invest $200 million over the next four years in the program.

Target is joining Walmart and other food retailers launching programs to attract workers in a national labor crunch.

The retailer said it will cover the cost of tuition, fees and textbooks for more than 340,000 part- and full-time workers who pursue a qualifying undergraduate degree at more than 40 institutions. It will also fund advanced degrees, paying up to $10,000 each year for master’s programs at those schools. Target says it will invest $200 million over the next four years in the program.

“Target employs team members at every life stage and helps our team learn, develop and build their skills, whether they’re with us for a year or a career. A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities. We don’t want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that’s where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone,” said Melissa Kremer, chief human resources officer, Target. “Our team members are the heart of Target’s strategy and success, and we have a long history of investing in industry-leading pay, extensive benefits and career opportunities to help our team thrive and have rewarding careers at Target.”

Target's announcement comes a week after Walmart, the largest private employer in the country, said it would pay for college tuition and books for its part-time and full-time associates.

Details of the new Target initiative include:

  • Debt-Free Education: Target will support team members taking courses for high school completion, college prep, English language learning and select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate and undergraduate degrees. Team members can attend classes at more than 40 schools, colleges and universities, choosing from an industry-leading 250 business-aligned programs from Business Management and Operations to IT, Computer Science, Design and more. Team members who opt into this program won’t have any out-of-pocket costs and will have flexibility to find opportunities that fit with their interests, schedules and career goals. Academic institutions include the University of Arizona, Oregon State University, University of Denver and eCornell along with HBCUs Morehouse College, Paul Quinn College and more. 
  • Tuition Assistance: For team members pursuing educational opportunities outside of the select business-aligned programs within the Guild network of schools, including master’s degrees, Target will provide direct payments to their academic institution of up to $5,250 for non-master's degrees and up to $10,000 for master’s degrees each year to reduce the burden of up-front, costly tuition payments. 
  • Educational Supplies: Target will also ensure that smaller out-of-pocket expenses and fees, such as textbooks and course fees, that may hinder team member participation, will also be covered at no cost to them.  

This education assistance program is part of Target Forward, Target’s new sustainability strategy that includes goals to create an equitable and inclusive workforce. It also builds on Target’s well-established learning and development programs that offer a variety of opportunities for team members to learn and grow in their careers. Team members spend more than 7 million hours in training annually, including participation in functional learning courses and trainings, leadership development programs, coaching, mentoring and more.

This is also the latest in a long history of investments Target makes to support the health, safety, well-being and career development of its team members.

Target most recently awarded all U.S.-based frontline hourly full-time and part-time team members in stores, distribution centers and contact centers a $200 recognition bonus. And, in 2020, Target invested an additional $1 billion in the well-being, health and safety of team members compared with 2019. This included Target’s industry-leading move to a $15 starting wage for all U.S.-based team members, along with five recognition bonuses Target paid to thank team members for their work throughout the pandemic. 

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is No. 6 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, with nearly 1,900 locations. The company added more than $1 billion in market share during the first three months of 2021.

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