Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced 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 edX.org.
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, research1 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.
“California is pioneering new educational opportunities, and next year, our state launches a first-of-its-kind online community college,” said Governor Jerry Brown. “This grant from Walmart will create multiple pathways for working learners and help put certificates and degrees in the hands of those striving to improve their lives.”
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.
Julie Gehrki, vice president of philanthropy at Walmart said:
- Walmart provided a $2,388,430 grant to the Foundation for California Community Colleges to help the California Community College system launch an innovative Online Community College aimed to meet the needs of underserved adult learners. The program will provide an additional option for working learners through a flexible, high-quality and affordable learning program for working adults, providing the skills and credentials needed to improve their social and economic mobility. The college could serve as many as 100,000 learners in the first two years after its initial program launch in 2019.
- Walmart provided a $1 million grant to edX to support the launch of MicroBachelors™ programs, a stackable series of courses learners can take to acquire career-relevant knowledge and gain 21st century skills. These programs will remove learning challenges for working adults, such as cost, time and previous educational experience, and enable learners to advance their careers while also pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. The first pilot implementation of a MicroBachelors program will be in California.
- A $250,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to Code for America will help the organization explore the role government technology systems can play in improving access to quality jobs in the digital age, and identify opportunities where technology can improve outcomes for job seekers. Code for America will engage users and employers in three cities to develop models of improved workforce systems to be scalable across the country to help working adults, educational providers and employers thrive.
“Approximately 2.5 million adults in California between the ages of 25 to 34 years old have a high school diploma but no college degree; however, by 2020, 65 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require a college credential,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor for the California Community Colleges. “Walmart’s support to help implement innovative solutions like the Online Community College will help provide the skills and tools California workers need to succeed not only in today’s high-demand jobs, but also the jobs of the future in our emerging economy.”
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.