Walmart employs 2.2 million associates around the world -- 1.5 million in the United States alone
The largest retailer in the world is looking to keep workers happy in a tight labor market by offering college benefits that help them earn degrees in sought-after health care fields.
Walmart announced Tuesday that its 1.5 million associates in the United States can now apply for one of seven bachelor’s degrees and two career diplomas in health-related fields for $1 a day through the Live Better U education program.
The degrees are designed to prepare associates for the next generation of health care jobs and provide a clear path to higher-paying jobs in a growing area of the company and in the economy. New courses include diploma programs for pharmacy technicians and opticians through Penn Foster, and seven bachelor’s degrees in health science, health and wellness and health care management/administration offered through Purdue University Global, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University and Wilmington University.
“Walmart aims to be the market leader in providing retail workers a path to careers in growing fields like health care,” said Drew Holler, SVP of associate experience for Walmart U.S. “We don’t know of any other retailer in America that has a program that allows its associates the opportunity to achieve a degree in health care that can translate into a higher-paying job within the company or in the broader field.”
The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 49-year low of 3.7%, putting pressure on retailers as they battle turnover, ever-higher salaries and recruiting difficulties.
According to Walmart, the move is an integral component of the company’s evolving health- and-wellness strategy and follows the opening of the Walmart Health Center in Georgia, which provides low, transparent pricing for key health services for local customers, regardless of insurance status.
The new offerings will also arm associates with training to fill critical health care roles across Walmart and Sam’s Club, which encompass more than 5,000 retail pharmacies, 3,000 vision centers and 400 hearing centers, as well as the new Walmart Health center in Georgia.
“Our presence in thousands of communities gives us a unique opportunity to provide access to affordable health care to millions of people, and we need trained associates in order to do so,” said Thomas Van Gilder, chief medical officer at Walmart. “As our health-and-wellness strategy and offerings continue to evolve, Live Better U will play a critical role in preparing our associates across the country for future work opportunities in the growing health care field.”
Walmart's Live Better U now includes more than 50 programs, removing financial and access barriers to education for associates seeking educational opportunities across professions. The health and wellness courses are especially important given projected industry growth of 18% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Walmart’s Live Better U offerings will expand with additional programs expected over the next year.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates more than 11,300 stores under 58 banners in 27 countries, and ecommerce websites, employing 2.2 million-plus associates worldwide. The company is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.