Walmart investing in healthcare workforce

Retail giant Walmart is adding education benefit programs to prepare its workforce for “the next generation of healthcare jobs,” the company announced.

The addition means the company’s 1.5 million associates in the U.S. can apply to a healthcare job program for just $1 a day. Walmart’s education benefit program, known as Live Better U, now offers seven bachelor’s degrees and two career diplomas in health-related fields, which will help fill healthcare roles in Walmart and Sam’s Club locations. The program offers more than 50 tracks overall. 

Walmart’s reach includes more than 5,000 retail pharmacies, 3,000 vision centers and 400 hearing centers. It is also the largest employer in the world. The company also recently entered the primary care space with a new test location in Georgia. It is expected Walmart will continue increasing its healthcare footprint over the next several years.

For the new healthcare programs, Walmart teamed up with Penn Foster to offer health and wellness courses and career diploma programs for pharmacy technicians and opticians through Penn Foster. The seven bachelor’s degrees in health science, healthcare management/administration and health and wellness are offered through Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Bellevue University and Wilmington University.

According to Walmart, it is the only company with such an offering to its employees and is hoping the investment will pay off in a future workforce armed with the right skills to fill job needs. One projection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the industry growth for health and wellness at 18% from 2016 to 2026. Over the next five years, 50,000 Walmart associates are expected to go through its various education benefit programs across Live Better U, a Walmart spokesperson told Health Exec.

“Walmart aims to be the market leader in providing retail workers a path to careers in growing fields like healthcare,” Drew Holler, senior vice president of associate experience for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “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.”

Walmart stated its Better Live U program has already put hundreds of thousands of associates through skills training, equal to more than $300 million in college credits. Within the first year of the program, more than 13,5000 associates from the company were accepted into at least one of the programs.

“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,” Walmart Chief Medical Officer Thomas Van Gilder said in a statement.