Walmart’s New Pathway for Lifelong Learning and Training

The retail company is funding educational organizations that allow employees to receive an attainable and affordable education that teaches skills for a rapidly changing workforce.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are funding $4 million in grants to educational organizations with the goal of helping make education easily accessible to workers so they can advance their careers by acquiring new skills.

The company has divided these grants among three organizations in California: The Foundation for California Community Colleges, and Code for America Labs, Inc. The goal is to provide learning and workforce programs that will “help reshape a new era of education and training,” according to a Walmart press release.

The funding will allow working employees in the retail industry easy access to education to accommodate their work schedules and education costs, according to the press release. Efforts are particularly focused on learning and training for frontline employees. Learners have four options to choose from through these programs: IT support, IT infrastructure, medical coding and supervisory management.

“We are in a unique position to better prepare American workers from all backgrounds to find work and advance their careers,” a Walmart spokesperson said. “However, advancing requires an expansion of modern skills, knowledge and training in a fast-changing economy.”

The Organizations

The programs are available to any Californian, regardless if they are a Walmart employee. The Foundation for California Community Colleges is set to launch its Online Community College in the fall 2019 semester. This program will have flexible, high-quality and affordable learning programs that will provide learners the skills and credentials needed to improve social and economic mobility.

EdX has launched the first pilot of their MicroBachelors program. Learners can pursue a bachelor’s degree by learning about career-relevant knowledge and mastering 21st century skills. Finally, Code for America will span three cities, which have not been chosen yet, to develop models of improved workforce systems.

“The U.S. economy is continuing to create millions of jobs, however, there are not enough skilled workers to fill them as many positions now require more education, more experience and new skills,” the Walmart spokesperson said. “In addition, employers consistently report they are facing a major skills shortage challenge. We believe that a stronger, more highly skilled frontline workforce will lead to greater opportunity for workers and stronger communities.”

Part of the Bigger Picture

The $4 million funding is the latest investment as part of the Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Retail Opportunity Initiative. The initiative is a “five-year, $100 million philanthropic effort aimed at making it easier for frontline employees in retail and adjacent sectors to gain new skills and advance in their careers,” according to the press release. The company has previously collaborated with nonprofits, employers, government agencies and educational institutions to implement innovations that increase the economic mobility for workers in the industry.

“We believe retail can be a powerful engine for economic mobility, both for our own associates and for workers across the sector,” the Walmart spokesperson said. “We are committed to helping make retail and the retail supply chain a place of inclusive opportunity.”

Thinking Ahead

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, one-third of the American workforce may need to develop new skills for different job types by 2030 because of technological advances. This is one reason Walmart believes advancing certain skills now will pay off in the future.

“By working with organizations on the frontlines of innovative learning, we can help create new opportunities and the tools needed to succeed and advance,” the Walmart spokesperson said. The company hopes these latest initiatives in California will be “scalable and replicable,” providing a model for other states to follow.

“An investment in workforce training and learning not only creates employee loyalty and a competitive edge, but it also creates business value and better serves employees, customers and shareholders,” the Walmart spokesperson said.