Walmart to pay employee tuition for in-demand degrees. The career landscape looks much different than it did even a few years ago and many in-demand occupations now require applicants to have an advanced degree or certificate to qualify, so some employers are offering educational opportunities to help employees advance their careers. Walmart, the largest U.S. retailer, announced Wednesday a new educational partnership to offer tailored upskilling and reskilling programs to its 1.5 million U.S. employees.
Walmart’s Live Better U (LBU) education benefit program is now partnering with Springboard, an online learning company that has previously worked on courses for the likes of Visa, HP, and Amazon. Walmart’s course offerings with Springboard will be in data analytics, software development, and data-driven strategic thinking, and the retail giant will pay 100% of tuition and books for hourly part-time and full-time workers—many of whom will be eligible for benefits on their first day. The upskilling and reskilling programs will range from eight weeks to nine months.
“More than 15,000 associates have graduated through Live Better U since we launched the program in 2018,” Lorraine Stomski, senior vice president of learning and leadership at Walmart, tells Fortune. “Today, graduates are working in a variety of areas across our business, such as Walmart global tech or merchandising in our campus offices, or serving as leaders in our stores and distribution centers.”
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Walmart’s LBU program is designed to prepare employees for in-demand roles in computer science and data science. Master’s degrees in computer science have nearly tripled during the past decade, and many schools on Fortune‘s ranking of best online master’s in computer science programs have seen an increase in enrollment. Meanwhile, data science is projected to be one of the fastest growing careers and people in this field can earn a median salary exceeding six figures. Currently, there are nearly 3,000 data science and analytics job openings Walmart is looking to fill, and the LBU program is a pathway for employees to gain the skills needed to land these roles.
Upskilling and reskilling for upward mobility
Walmart’s new programs will be offered through Springboard for Business, which focuses on employee development at Fortune 500 companies via cohort-based, live instructor-led sessions, and one-on-one mentorship. Springboard consider data analytics and software development programs to be reskilling programs, Chris Duchesne, general manager of Springboard for Business, tells Fortune.
These efforts enable Walmart employees to acquire in-demand skills to advance their careers, while remaining with the organization and continuing to work. In the data-driven strategic thinking program, Walmart employees collaborate on a project with their manager, related to their current job. “They’re gaining skills, proficiency, and mastery—but as they do, the project they’re working on is something they can immediately deploy the results into the business,” Duchesne says.
“Through Live Better U, Walmart’s pays 100% of the cost of tuition and books so associates can earn degrees or certifications designed to help them excel in the jobs they have today and create the career path they want for the future,” Stomski adds.
Walmart to pay employee tuition for in-demand degrees
Walmart’s focus on education
Since Walmart’s LBU program launched in 2018, the company has paid an estimated $333 million in tuition costs, helping its employees earn a degree or certificate without the burden of student loan debt. The program has also helped some employees pursue entirely new career paths.
Jarryn Robertson, one such LBU graduate, began her career at Walmart nearly 14 years ago as a part-time cashier in a store in Louisiana. After earning an online degree from Bellevue University through Walmart’s LBU program, Robertson has been able to advance her career at the company.
She now works as a project analyst for Walmart, on a talent team that focuses on non-traditional students—people who didn’t go to college right after high school or who earned their degree later in life, says Robertson. “It feels good I’m able to help people like myself, coming to Walmart.”
More employers now offer tuition assistance
Other Fortune 500 companies like Amazon, Google, and Pepsi have chosen similar pursuits to help reskill, upskill, and better retain their current employees—with many others following suit. In fact, 72% of employers now offer or plan to offer student loan assistance or tuition reimbursement, according to a 2022 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Enrollment for Walmart’s programs began earlier this year, with classes set to begin in April. Walmart employees interested in entering the program can learn more and start the process online.