For years, Walmart has been criticized for not offering its employees the benefits they deserve. Luckily, it seems like the mega-store that specializes in everything from kitchen dishes to lawn care equipment is taking a step in the right direction.
According to the New York Times, Walmart has partnered with American Public University, an online school with about 70,000 students currently enrolled. Although Walmart scholarshipshave been offered to students in the past, this new partnership will allow some of Walmart’s employees to earn college credits in fields such as retail management or logistics, just by working their jobs. Walmart employees will also receive a 15 percent discount on tuition, while Walmart has pledged to invest another $50 million in tuition assistance for those employees who participate.
“If 10 to 15 percent of employees take advantage of this, that’s like graduating three Ohio State Universities,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, a member of Walmart’s external advisory council. “It’s a lot of Americans getting a college degree at a time when it’s becoming less affordable.”
Tucker isn’t the only Walmart advisor who is in favor of this program. In fact, there is a widespread support of the initiative to help employees gain a higher education.
“It’s important because it reflects the kind of company we are,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, head of Walmart’s operations in the US. “A company that says, ‘Anyone who wants to learn, who wants to grow with us, who is willing to work hard to get a college degree, can do that.’ ”
Leslie Dach, the executive vice president for corporate affairs and government relations, wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In his letter, Dach expressed a desire to not only educate employees, but also influence other large companies who might offer similar programs to their employees.
“While there is broad agreement about the need for more Americans to attain college degrees, we recognize that there is a healthy discussion under way about the best way to get there,” Dach said. “One of our aims with this program is to try some innovative approaches that seem promising, grounded in what is already known in the field. We hope in this way to expand the education and employer communities’ knowledge of what works most effectively, so that policy makers, other companies and other stakeholders can continuously improve such offerings.”
To qualify for the program, employees must have worked at Walmart for at least one year, if they work full-time, or three years, if they work part-time. They must also have scored “on target” or “above target” on their performance evaluation.
This sounds like a great idea to me. And if it actually proves to be as beneficial to employees’ lives, I might relax my self-imposed boycott of Walmart and visit their stores more often. Way to go, Wally World!