Wal-Mart associates can now earn their high school diploma and a career certificate at no personal cost with the help of a new partnership between the company and Cengage Learning, an educational content, technology and services company.
Through the Career Online High School program, part of Wal-Mart’s already-existing Lifelong Learning Program, company associates can earn an accredited high school diploma then go on to earn a credentialed career certificate in a high-demand area. The program pairs each participant with an academic coach to help them create a career plan, serve as a mentor and connect them with resources needed to demonstrate they’ve mastered the course material. Classes are taught by board-certified instructors, and students have round-the-clock access to an online learning platform. It’s possible for students to complete the program in six months by transferring previously earned high school credits, but they have up to 18 months to finish.
Cengage Learning and Smart Horizons Career Online Education created COHS in 2012 to deliver career-based online education opportunities to adults in the U.S. who don’t have a high school diploma. Since then, Wal-Mart is one of many leading companies that have built out their strategies to upskill and retain employees by teaming up with higher education institutions to offer incentives deeper than traditional tuition reimbursement program offerings.
Last year, Starbucks announced it would begin offering its workers the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program for free. Previously, the chain offered employees tuition reimbursement for two years of undergraduate study. This April, JetBlue unveiled JetBlue Scholars, which offers to foot most of the bill for crewmembers to earn an accredited college degree from a partner university. Other companies like Manpower and Pizza Hut have launched similar programs over the past several months, stretching beyond the $1,000 and $2,000 benefits many companies offer to pay for employees to go back to or finish school. But a trend may be slow to develop.
In “Why It’s Worth It for JetBlue and Starbucks to Pay for Employees’ College Education,” a May article in Fast Company, Artemis Connection CEO and founder Christy Johnson said that while such benefit programs are no doubt attracting employees and increasing their satisfaction with their employers, people shouldn’t expect to see a large wave of companies rolling out their own full or nearly full tuition incentive programs. “The vast majority of companies will just see it as an additional cost and will not offer it unless a critical mass does.”
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email email@example.com.
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