Walmart aims to solve retail labor dilemma

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
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The announcement comes as Walmart and other retailers attempt to fill hundreds of thousands of seasonal jobs in an extremely difficult labor market.

Walmart is embarking on a new effort involving training and education to help create mobility for the adult workforce in the United States.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are pledging nearly $4 million in grants for three organizations working to provide innovative pathways to learning and training to help create mobility for workers: The Foundation for California Community Colleges (the Foundation), Code for America Labs, Inc. and

"We’re committed to creating a stronger learning and training ecosystem to help workers advance and supporting some of our nation’s most innovative launch pads in higher education and training. Through work with organizations like the Foundation for California Community Colleges, Code for America and, we can help make training and education more accessible and affordable for working adults so they advance their careers," said Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy at Walmart.

The announcement comes as Walmart and other retailers attempt to fill hundreds of thousands of seasonal jobs in an extremely difficult labor market.

The national unemployment rates sank to 3.7 percent in September, exacerbating retailers' already difficult challenge of finding large numbers of employees to fill seasonal jobs. The previous month's unemployment rate was already low at 3.9 percent so the decline to 3.7 percent was not seen as a particularly favorable sign because it will be that much harder to fill temporary jobs at a time when they are needed most. 

Today, nearly 14 million people in the U.S. – 8 percent of the total labor force – are both active workers and formally enrolled in some form of postsecondary education or training according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Many working adults, especially those economically challenged, face barriers to learning and career advancement due to high-education costs, conflicting work schedules and a job market with fewer career opportunities while they are in school. In addition, research shows that up to one-third of the American workforce may need to develop new skills for different types of jobs by 2030 due to rapid technological advances.

The funding is the latest investment as part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s Retail Opportunity Initiative, a five-year, $100 million philanthropic effort aimed at making it easier for frontline employees in retail and adjacent sectors to gain new skills and advance in their careers. To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have funded more than $80 million in grants and collaborated with leading nonprofits, employers, government agencies and educational institutions to identify and implement innovations aimed at increasing the economic mobility of retail and related-sector workers.

In addition, Walmart announced an expansion of its education benefit to include Walmart U.S. eCommerce associates. The company first announced the program in May, which is designed to remove barriers to college enrollment and completion in partnership with Guild Education, a leading education benefits platform. The program will allow Walmart associates to access affordable, high-quality associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in business or supply chain management. Walmart will subsidize the cost of higher education, beyond financial aid and an associate contribution equivalent to $1 a day. Degrees will be offered through the University of Florida, Brandman University and Bellevue University – nonprofit schools selected for their focus and strong outcomes on serving working-adult learners.