Employer Lifelong Learning Programs Help Students SucceedThomas Rasbach | Assistant Store Manager, Walmart Stores Inc.
Working for Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has its advantages. I began working for the company in 1999 as a cart pusher and worked my way through every department in the store as an hourly employee on my way to becoming an assistant store manager. The only jobs I have not applied for require specialty degrees, such as pharmacists.
That is where I hit a ceiling on my career growth.
The next step for me is a shift manager, for which the competition is extremely tough. While a degree is not required, it is strongly suggested. After all, most applicants have one — and that sets them apart from applicants without one. So, in early 2011, I began looking at going back to school. However, it was hard because I worked a full-time job in retail, where work hours are unpredictable, at best. As a result, going to a brick-and-mortar school was not really an option for me.
Choosing an online school was the only way I would be able to attend college, due the scheduling flexibility they offer non-traditional students like me. I learned about Wal-Mart’s Lifelong Learning Program — a partnership between the company and the American Public University (APU) — that would allow my 11 years of previous work experience to be evaluated for college credit.
The application process was extremely simple and, after I submitted my career portfolio for evaluation, I received 24 college credits for my experience. APU also offers lifelong learning courses that help Wal-Mart employees receive even more academic credit. They are two-week, pass/fail classes that are self-paced with a final exam to make sure students have the required knowledge to receive credit for the course.
I am now a senior looking to finish my degree requirements this coming winter. In three years, I will have completed a four-year degree, while working 50 to 60 hours a week and taking 12 credit hours a semester. I have pride in everything I do, which has afforded me the opportunity to participate in two honor societies. I am a member of Delta Mu Delta, a business honor society, and am also the APU chapter president of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Without Wal-Mart supporting the Lifelong Learning Program throughout our stores, I do not know if I would be the collegiate scholar I am today.
Author Perspective: Student
It’s great to read how some employers offer continuous learning opportunities for their employees. Research consistently shows that employees who are engaged in lifelong education are more likely to demonstrate loyalty to the company as well as increased productivity. Well-educated employees benefit their employers by bringing innovation, creativity and expertise into the workplace.
I would be interested to learn how this program compares to what other employers offer.
My guess is that there would be many discrepancies between companies’ programs, which means unequal access to education for the many employees out there.
Perhaps — and this is very preliminary thinking — state governments have some role to play in how employer-supported education programs are developed, to ensure more equal offerings. After all, why should an employee at Company X have a leg-up professionally over an employee at Company Y because the first company has better educational allowances?
This is just a thought, but perhaps others want to weigh in on this idea.