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Walmart expands education benefits to upskill workforce

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Live Better U now offers Walmart employees an opportunity to land a career in healthcare.

For a nominal fee of US$1 a day, Walmart’s 1.5 million associates across the US can now earn a Bachelor’s degree or a career diploma in healthcare, a sector expected to continue experiencing phenomenal growth in the coming years.

The retail giant said in an announcement last week it was expanding its education benefits programme to offer employees an opportunity to upskill in a highly lucrative sector, while also meeting the country’s growing need for healthcare providers.

Offered through Live Better U, associates can now apply for one of seven available Bachelor’s degrees in health science, health and wellness and healthcare management/administration offered through Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Bellevue University and Wilmington University.

Those who decide to go the diploma route can pick from one of two health and wellness courses for pharmacy technicians and opticians through Penn Foster.

“Walmart aims to be the market leader in providing retail workers a path to careers in growing fields like healthcare,” said Drew Holler, Senior Vice President of Associate Experience for Walmart US. 

“We don’t know of any other retailer in America that has a program that allows its associates the opportunity to achieve a degree in healthcare that can translate into a higher-paying job within the company or in the broader field.”

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Launched just a year ago, Live Better U is a unique employee benefits programme created to empower Walmart associates through education.

The programme includes the debt-free US$1-a-day degree offering, free high school completion for associates and eligible family members, discounts on higher education programmes like master’s degrees, free foreign language learning and much more — all in partnership with Guild Education.

Associates also receive other benefits through the programme, such as earning college credit for training they receive on the job through a Walmart Academy.

The new healthcare qualifications will arm associates with the necessary training to fill critical health care roles across Walmart and Sam’s Club, which includes more than 5,000 retail pharmacies, 3,000 vision centers and 400 hearing centers, as well as the new Walmart Health center in Georgia

Corporate sponsorship programmes like this one are a win-win for both employer and employee. Live Better U, for example, benefits both Walmart and its associates and, as an extension of that, the wider healthcare sector.

Employees get the opportunity to expand their horizons and earn better wages while an upskilled workforce means the retailer would be able to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible to the customers in the communities it serves.

“Our presence in thousands of communities gives us a unique opportunity to provide access to affordable healthcare to millions of people, and we need trained associates in order to do so,” said Thomas Van Gilder, Chief Medical Officer at Walmart.

“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.”

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Live Better U on its own has already proven to be extremely successful. 

Less than a year after launch, more than 13,500 Walmart associates from all 50 states were accepted into at least one of the programmes—ahead of the retailer’s projections. Associates also completed more than 36,000 credits worth a total of US$17.5 million in the first year of the programme.

Live Better U currently includes more than 50 programmes. The health and wellness courses are especially crucial given the industry is expected to experience an 18 percent growth between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Walmart intends to continue expanding Live Better U’s offerings with additional programmes expected over the next year.

“Walmart’s Live Better U is quickly leading the pack as one of the most innovative corporate-sponsored education programs in the country,” said Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education, Walmart’s education benefits partner. 

“We’ve been proud partners in supporting Walmart’s goal of making their program accessible to all associates and aligned with advancement in the company or beyond. By expanding the program into healthcare fields, Walmart is ensuring associates can continue to pursue their dreams while making meaningful advancements in their careers.”