- Walmart announced Tuesday that it's expanding its Live Better U education benefit program by offering employees education programs focused on health-related fields via its continued partnership with Guild Education. For $1 a day, the retail giant's 1.5 million workers may apply for BA degrees in health science, health and wellness, and healthcare management/administration. They may also apply for career diplomas for pharmacy technicians and opticians.
- Walmart said the new offerings will train employees to fill crucial healthcare positions throughout the company and its Sam's Club subsidiary, which includes a new Walmart Health center in Georgia, more than 5,000 retail pharmacies, 400 hearing centers and 3,000 vision centers. According to Walmart, the "upskilled workforce will help the retailer make quality health care more affordable and accessible for customers in the communities it serves."
- "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 healthcare field," Walmart Chief Medical Officer Thomas Van Gilder said in a media release.
In a 2018 Q&A with HR Dive, Ellie Bertani, Walmart's senior director of HR strategy and innovation, explained why the company overhauled its employee development program and partnered with Guild Education. "We embarked on this journey ourselves in 2017 because we wanted to step back and re-evaluate education as a benefit within Walmart and how we could both do some really innovative things in this space, and not innovation for itself but because we had a more traditional education benefits program which was really centered more around reputation rather than true impact on associates," said Bertani. "I think we were in a position that many are in, in that respect. We, in two ways, were really looking to change our practice."
More employers are looking to development programs as a way to both shore up their internal talent pools and to retain the talent they already have. Employees with certain skills — particularly in the tech and health sectors — are in high-demand as employers consider their talent goals, but the supply remains starkly low, employers have found. In turn, companies like Amazon are building upskilling programs to bolster their current workforce and serve as an appealing benefit.
Companies aren't alone in recognizing the talent shortage, especially for those in-demand jobs in healthcare. The U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bipartisan bill, the Direct Creation, Advancement, and Retention of Employment (CARE) Opportunity Act. The bill aims to invest in training and employment opportunities for direct-care workers.