- On April 20, Waste Management launched Your Tomorrow, an education and upskilling benefits program in partnership with Guild Education. The program offers Waste Management's nearly 36,000 U.S. employees access to more than 170 fully-funded programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees, short-term technology and business certificate programs and high school completion.
- On Jan. 1, 2022, the program will expand to include employees' nearly 34,000 benefits-eligible dependents, including children and spouses.
- Waste Management says it is the first company to expand education benefits to employees' dependents. After hearing from employees that college education for their children was chief among their financial burdens, "I just had this idea," Tamla Oates-Forney, senior vice president and chief people officer for Waste Management, told HR Dive. "It didn't take long for us as a company to realize that it would be a key differentiator for us."
Education as a benefit has gained traction in recent years, as companies seek to both upskill their workforce and appeal to competitive candidates. Employer-educator collaborations like Guild Education are an increasingly popular way for employers to provide the benefit. Educators are reaching out to workforce partners and helping deliver skills-based programs now more than ever before, an expert in the learning space previously told HR Dive.
Guild Education's Direct Payment program removes the need for students to pay tuition expenses out-of-pocket — a key benefit, as "67% of frontline employees cite not being able to pay upfront as a main reason for not using education and L&D benefits," according to Guild. Companies like Chipotle, Walmart and Disney have partnered with Guild to connect employees with learning opportunities.
Waste Management's new educational offering for dependents was a first for Guild, requiring the company to develop a new platform to support it, Oates-Forney said.
While offering educational benefits to an estimated 70,000 members and dependents of its workforce may seem a significant investment for Waste Management, Oates-Forney expects the program to pay for itself by reducing employee turnover and attracting top talent. She also sees the educational benefits for dependents as a natural pipeline for young people into the company.
Given a years-long shortage in truck drivers and other workforce development needs for the company — including a need for "technically savvy" customer service representatives, Oates-Forney noted, who can understand the technology being continually integrated into Waste Management's trucks — the new benefits package may be an important new tool in the company's toolkit.
Waste Management hopes the decision positions the company as a people-first, innovative, forward-thinking place to work, Oates-Forney told HR Dive. "It's going to really be beneficial to us as a company as we compete for talent, specifically drivers and technicians."