Walmart to expand its talent pipeline with a debt-free college plan for high schoolers

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Jun 04, 2019
George Anderson

Walmart is looking to take the lead in the competition for talent with a new employment pitch to high school students that includes flexible work schedules and the opportunity to earn a college degree debt-free.

The retailer announced yesterday steps it was taking to recruit and retain high schoolers including:

  • Job scheduling that maintains the same work days/hours for up to 13 weeks;
  • Free prep for SAT or ACT tests;
  • Up to seven hours of free college credit through Walmart’s Live Better U’s College Start program;
  • Debt-free college degrees in business, supply management or technology from six nonprofit universities: Bellevue University, Brandman University, Purdue University Global,  Southern New Hampshire University, University of Florida and Wilmington University.

“We are committed to creating a workforce of lifelong learners and instilling in them excitement for retail and a passion for serving customers,” said Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., in a statement. “Access to higher education is one way to grow your career. So, in addition to providing people with an entry to the workforce and access to our on-the-job training, I’m proud Walmart also offers our associates programs like Live Better U to help them achieve their educational goals.

Walmart is stepping up its recruitment of younger people in a tight labor market where many teenagers don’t even look for jobs. Fewer than 25,000 of Walmart’s workforce are currently enrolled in high school. Speaking on a call with the media, Julie Murphy, executive vice president, people of Walmart U.S., said the company has been challenged to create shift schedules that work with the academic and extracurricular activities that many teens are engaged in.

Walmart launched Live Better U last year and accepted more than 7,500 associates into the program, ahead of the chain’s expectations, during that time.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to teenagers working in retail industry jobs? Will Walmart’s decision to extend the benefits of its Live Better U program to high school students help it gain a significant edge in recruiting teenagers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"All those books and documentaries about how Walmart was the employer of bottom choice has propelled them to now become best in class."
"I hope the kids take full advantage of the education and truly get involved in the future of retail."
"The retail industry needs to do a better job of bragging about retail careers."

Join the Discussion!

15 Comments on "Walmart to expand its talent pipeline with a debt-free college plan for high schoolers"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This is another example of the many ways Walmart leads. Notwithstanding the challenges of scheduling high schoolers, I think this is a brilliant initiative by Walmart to grow their own workforce – and provide teenagers with opportunities to further their education. Teenagers are more than capable of doing many of the front-line jobs in retailing, and the Live Better U program will certainly encourage students (probably with a nudge from Mom or Dad) to work at Walmart.

Charles Dimov
BrainTrust

Interestingly enough, my son just applied to a few retail jobs as a high school senior. He was enthusiastic about it, as he had done municipal work (lifeguard), corporate work in marketing, and wanted to round it out with some retail experience. One of the biggest barriers is just getting your foot in the door when the student has no associated experience.

This is a fantastic initiative from Walmart. Very smart for both endearing the public to Walmart and for creating loyalty among its staff. It is always good to get in early – with your employees.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

It wasn’t that long ago that the general consensus was that Walmart was destroying small business and only offering low-skill labor jobs that were further eroding the middle class. Boy has this company changed. This is a brilliant move that should give them a huge advantage in recruiting (middle class and low income) teens that are looking for a roadmap to a better life. If the opportunity exists to get a degree debt free while also learning real world skills in the retail environment, that will be a huge pull.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

All those books and documentaries about how Walmart was the employer of bottom choice has propelled them to now become best in class.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Walmart is taking bold steps along two key fronts that impact its capacity to grow profitably. One has been an aggressive technology turn to innovate and create efficiencies in a hybrid retail landscape of physical and online assets. With 1.5 million U.S. employees, the second area is people. The latest move to recruit high school students by appealing to a debt free college education and stable, student-friendly scheduling is certain to hit the right cord.

Walmart is making an investment in its future workforce through Live Better U program, rather than viewing high schoolers as a temporary and fungible commodity. Great move by a company unwilling to rest on past success!

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Walmart also has a leadership program; in many cases, its graduates represent the first graduation in that family. The retail industry needs to do a better job of bragging about retail careers.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

What’s not to like about this? I applaud Walmart for taking the lead here, hopefully other big retailers will follow.

A few years ago we took a backstage tour at Walt Disney World. One of the stops was a machine shop where Disney makes almost every part needed to create and maintain the park. I was surprised to learn that these cast members go to a Disney-created school to learn the skills necessary to do the job. This and Walmart’s new program illustrate that these days you have to go above and beyond to ensure your company’s future success.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

Walmart is making a true effort here and so many high schoolers will benefit. I hope the kids take full advantage of the education and truly get involved in the future of retail. I’d love to see the universities set up and foster an online community that gives the collective of students a purpose and a voice in the business.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Wow. I love this idea. There is nothing “free” about college or any higher education, but this program sounds like a great combination of life and work experience that builds a solid platform for an enterprising young adult. They hit their mid 20s with a debt free education and meaningful work experience under their belt. Perfect. Applause for Walmart.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

The biggest barriers to teenagers working in retail industry jobs? It’s retailers that hire to fill slots, never communicate meaningful information or show appreciation and then explode when they perceive the associate not doing a fantastic job. Now for Walmart: my opinion is that this is the smartest and best move made in retail for these associates I have seen. I am sure there are other retail companies shaking their heads and wondering why their top dollar executives didn’t do something like this first. Now watch them attempt the change.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Teenagers are not a monolith. For the children of the affluent, some forms of retailing may be seen as unacceptable. Work in a fashion boutique or a tech store? OK. Work stocking shelves? Not so much. For middle and lower income Americans though retailing is still a popular entry-level job. The issue? Unpredictable hours, generally low wages, minimum to no benefits for part time workers and — perhaps worst of all — no career path. What Walmart has done is solve several of these problems at once. This has the potential to become a peacetime G.I. bill for middle and lower income youth. College debt is swallowing many young people’s futures. The chance to get a degree, have it paid for, emerge debt free and with a built-in career is almost irresistible and will be of particular interest to the best and brightest who otherwise might not be in the position to further their educations. Congratulations to Walmart! Well played.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Walmart is making a great move to help them attract teenagers who have a high likelihood of being successful. One of the hidden benefits of the program is they will become an employer of choice among teenagers who will be dependable, reliable and want to grow because their parents will want them to go to work for Walmart and will have a vested interest in making sure they go to work and do a great job.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

As an academician I applaud Walmart’s decision to offer flexible work hours as well as the opportunity to earn a college degree debt-free. While the debt-free college degree benefit will get the most PR, the freedom of schedule flexibility is something 16 to 18 year old students cherish. This benefit recognizes the school, athletic, and social demands associated with high school. This is a good first step by Walmart to show respect to this generation of workers. Kudos to Walmart!

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

This is an excellent move by Walmart — at least at a societal level. And Walmart will benefit as well.

Retail lacks the excited, breathless buzz which surrounds STEM and other post-high school experiences. Let’s hope this helps many graduating high schoolers find good work and good careers built in connection with a company.

The announcement isn’t just about school, either. The commitment to maintaining work schedules is critical as well.

It would be excellent if those moves led more to follow and we returned to a situation where companies understood that shareholder value benefits when they commit to employees.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Low pay, long hours, and a small number of executive openings. Walmart’s Live Better U is a very good idea. It gives them the opportunity to create with the students a program tailored to some extent to Walmart’s future employee needs, and they will have visibility to the student’s achievements and fitness to work at Walmart. It will also give Walmart an edge at recruiting teenagers by choosing those who Walmart believes will make the best long term employees earlier than other retailers.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"All those books and documentaries about how Walmart was the employer of bottom choice has propelled them to now become best in class."
"I hope the kids take full advantage of the education and truly get involved in the future of retail."
"The retail industry needs to do a better job of bragging about retail careers."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is Walmart’s decision to extend the benefits of its Live Better U program to high school students help it gain a significant edge over other retailers in recruiting teenagers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...