BENTONVILLE, Ark.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Even before the current economic climate, Walmart’s response to an economy going through a technology-fueled transformation with evolving consumer habits has been focused on investing in associates. Over the last few months, Walmart has committed to invest almost $1 billion in U.S. associate bonuses and today announced the expansion of Live Better U (LBU) education benefits to include in-demand skilled trade and digital skills programs, beyond their traditional college programs.
LBU is designed to support working adult learners and meets associates where they are on their educational journey by focusing on degree completion through a number of supportive elements, free student coaching, college credit for Walmart training, and career pathways for LBU graduates. Regardless of which path an associate chooses, those who take advantage of LBU have one thing in common – they are earning a degree or certificate along with a paycheck, without lifelong student debt.
Since the June 2018 launch, Live Better U has made an incredible impact:
- In just two years, Walmart has built one of the largest employer-based educational benefits programs in the U.S.
- The majority of associates who have engaged in a LBU program are female, the average age is between 30 and 40, and 47% are people of color.
- More than 25,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club associates from all 50 states have taken advantage of education offerings, including $1 a day college degrees and free high school completion.
- Walmart is expanding LBU to offer eligibility to all part- and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates starting on their first day of employment based on LBU’s results in driving associate retention and promotions.
“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 fulltime student,” said Julie Murphy, Executive Vice President of People of Walmart U.S. “By adding both 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.”
Nationally there has been much focus on the future of work, but less has been placed on future-proof jobs such as skilled trades. The U.S. suffers from a skilled trades talent gap accelerated by retirement, turnover and a shift away from trade education in high school. 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. Additionally, a report by Strada Education and Lumina Foundation found that certificates provide substantial value in both employment and personal satisfaction for American adults without college degrees. The study found that adults with a certificate or certification, but no college degree, report greater marketability, employment rates, incomes, and happiness with their educational paths than adults without credentials.
As with Walmart’s debt free college offering, learners who take advantage of the skilled trades workforce certificates or digital certificates will pay only $1 a day. Most of these programs can be completed within one year or less, highlighting a move toward rapid skilling and meeting many learners’ desire to gain skills quickly and throughout their career to succeed in a fast-changing job landscape.
Part and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates will now be eligible to enroll in LBU starting on 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 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.
“We’ve been thrilled to work alongside Walmart to help build what is now one of the largest education benefit programs in the U.S. and has empowered Walmart associates to advance their career, without student debt,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO and Co-Founder of Guild Education. “With the expansion into skilled trades and digital programs, Live Better U is helping its associates prepare to succeed in today’s accelerated future of work economy.”
Walmart’s skilled trade certificates will provide the foundational knowledge needed to start someone on the path to a career in a trade. Walmart is partnering with Penn Foster to provide the online courses leading to skilled trades certificates in one of these six in-demand fields: Facilities Maintenance, Industrial Maintenance, HVAC/Refrigeration, Electrical, Plumbing and Construction Trades. Upon earning a workforce certificate in a trade, Walmart will support associates in finding a relevant entry level role at Walmart or with a member of Walmart’s contractor network. This on-the-job training will provide associates with experience, mentors and guidance, and position them well for licensure in their trade if required.
As with LBU program expansions into IT and healthcare, Walmart has again examined future skill needs for our business and in the economy at large. For this reason, today we are announcing further expansion of the program into digital skills programs. Walmart is partnering with eCornell and Southern New Hampshire University to add 19 certificates in digital skills, focused on four areas important to the Walmart business now and in the future: Ways of Working, Data Fluency & Decision Making, Design Thinking & UX/UI and Technology.
OTHER LEADERSHIP QUOTES
“At a time when the world is rapidly changing, we’re proud to expand our educational offerings to thousands of Walmart associates across the nation. These new digital certificate programs will provide Walmart associates with short bursts of learning that will prepare them with future-proof skills and set them up for success in our changing workforce.” Paul LeBlanc, President and CEO, SNHU.
“The skilled trades are, in many ways, the backbone of the U.S. economy — but are too often overlooked in conversations about the changing nature of work. At a time of unprecedented turmoil in the labor market, Walmart is renewing its commitment to addressing the country’s most critical skill gaps in ways that will accelerate the path to economic recovery in the months to come.” Frank Britt, CEO of Penn Foster.
“We’re proud to offer Walmart associates the opportunity to access high quality professional certificate programs from Cornell faculty.” Paul Krause, Vice Provost for External Education at Cornell University and Executive Director of eCornell.
“The Construction Industry has a significant need for trained and skilled tradesmen and women and that demand will continue for many years. Walmart’s Live Better U program will help train candidates to enter a field that has unlimited opportunity. The carpenter training that I received at the beginning of my career created the foundation of knowledge that has helped me grow from an entry level Apprentice Carpenter to the President of our Construction Company. Hats off to Wal-Mart for helping provide their associates an opportunity to train and expand their individual opportunities.” Dave Mason Sr. President of Tri State General Contractors.
“There’s a skilled trades labor shortage in the U.S. and that’s only expected to grow over the next 10 years. We need new initiatives that provide greater access to skilled trades training in order to meet this workforce demand. By providing education opportunities in the skilled trades, Walmart will help build a critical talent pipeline and introduce more individuals to a rewarding career in our industry.” Eric P. Handley, Chief Operating Officer of William A. Randolph, Inc., a national commercial contractor firm with offices in Chicago, New York and Atlanta
“In a fast-changing economy made even more volatile by the pandemic, working people are seeking out market-ready skills in short-term programs that can keep pace with the labor market. Walmart’s extension of its education benefits to associates seeking certificates in digital learning and the trades is a fair and practical response to that demand. It will not only better position associates for a changing retail sector. It will significantly increase their employability across a range of industries that will be part of our nation’s economic recovery.” Andy Van Kleunen, CEO, National Skills Coalition.
“With the cost of college tuition at an all-time high while 40 million people are out of work, the prospects of a college degree or a meaningful certificate are beyond the reach of a significant share of the American population. It is encouraging to see companies like Walmart stepping up and creating pathways for working adults to further their education and obtain credentials that will put them on a path to a meaningful and productive career. More than that, it’s important as a nation that more opportunities for advancement be made available to people who can’t otherwise afford them, so inequality doesn’t worsen.” Jaime Fall, Director, UpSkill America