By Lorraine Stomski, Senior Vice President, Learning & Leadership
The road to doing what you love starts by taking one step, and here at Walmart, it’s graduation time. This year marked the largest number of Live Better U (LBU) graduates – all 4,104 of them – in a 12-month period. The total number of active students is now nearly 28,000. For just $1 a day, they earned a college degree or diploma and achieved an important milestone to learn, grow and build their careers.
LBU provides associates with free or subsidized formal higher education opportunities that meet them wherever they are on their education journey. We designed our education program to remove the barriers that too often stop someone from getting a degree: hurdles like cost, time, navigating an unfamiliar system, relevance in a changing economy and low completion rates among adult learners.
Programs like LBU are a major benefit Walmart is proud to offer, all part of our investment in associates’ long-term success. The positive effect is timely – and the changes of the past year seem to have brought a new perspective – as the impacts of the pandemic have, for many, encouraged them to re-evaluate personal and career goals.
We are focused on upskilling our associates to meet the needs of the business and preparing them for future roles. From April 2020 to April 2021, the LBU program experienced a 93% increase in high school and college graduates. Enrollment in health care studies surged 152%, and business studies grew 76%. For example, we are developing associate skills to access optician and pharmacy technician opportunities for our Walmart Health locations. We see the certificate and short-form learning opportunities as an important pillar of associate growth, enabling progressive mobility for associates. And, this past April, nearly 650 associates enrolled in a new English language learning program.
Graduating from LBU often leads to new opportunities for many associates. Promotion rates are double among those who enroll, and retention rates in their jobs are significantly higher.
Investing in Associates
Since launching in 2018, the LBU program has helped prepare associates for careers at Walmart or wherever their professional ambitions take them. The program also offers access to customized coaching and skills development opportunities.
Brandi Kindell of Mebane, North Carolina, a recent LBU graduate, started at Walmart 17 years ago in the shoe department. She transferred to various roles, from an electronics sales associate to a driver coordinator to a dry shipping loader, and always believed she could do more.
As a single mother with two children, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Leadership from Bellevue University through LBU.
“By doing this, I’ve been able to lead by example and show my children one of Walmart’s core values is striving for excellence,” she said. After she got her degree, Brandi was promoted to warehouse area manager and will start her training later this month.
A recent short-form associates’ survey found many Walmart associates are most interested in gaining leadership and people management skills, followed by project management skills.
He began his Walmart career nine years ago in Forest, Mississippi, as an electronics sales associate. In considering management roles, Courtney knew he needed more qualifications to reach his goals.
Through LBU, Courtney completed his Bachelor of Science in Supply Chain, Transportation and Logistics Management from Bellevue University. “Three weeks after finishing my courses, I got a job offer in the Home Office,” Courtney said. He recently moved to Arkansas and was able to buy his first home.
Ladder of Opportunity,
Courtney Stingley fits that profile perfectly. As our LBU graduates embark on their new journeys, all roads lead back to their commitment to learn new skills and build their careers, and Walmart is proud to be there along the way. Walmart encourages all our associates who aspire to grow their professional capabilities to participate in these great benefits available to them.
We salute the graduating associates in the LBU class of 2021. Please join us in recognizing their accomplishments!