Walmart is offering its associates a new path to careers in health care with an expansion to its Live Better U college offering.
"Our associates have been asking for these degrees," Ellie Bertani, Walmart's senior director of learning strategy and innovation, told Cheddar Wednesday. "We constantly ask them 'what are the opportunities you're looking for for career advancement?' And health and wellness degrees continue to rise to the top of the list."
Employees can now apply for one of seven bachelor's degrees and two career diplomas within the health care field. The additions come as Walmart ($WMT) has its eye on the health space, with thousands of pharmacies and vision centers and a new health center in Georgia.
Associates can earn their degrees for $1 per day. While some companies offer educational benefits for free, Bertani said there's a reason for the cost.
"Our belief is that if you get something for free, you're less likely to value it," Bertani said. "And we think the value for our associates and for the business is when people get through their degrees."
While Walmart tells associates it would love for them to continue to advance their careers at the company, Bertani said there are no restrictions in place should they decide to go elsewhere.
She said the benefits are part of Walmart's recruitment process.
"We think if we give great benefits, we're going to attract people who want to advance their careers and grow their skill sets, so that's really important for us," Bertani said.
"We are monitoring the data to see if this does improve quality of hire, retention rates, advancement rates, promotion rates within the company. And we expect to be able to report out on those in the next few years as we see the results, but we are definitely seeing great results particularly on the retention side as this program advances."