By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Academies aim to train supervisors, managers, and assistant managers nationwide.
In a traditional cap-and-gown ceremony, 62 graduates emerged successfully from the completion of the first “Walmart Academy” training program at its North Bergen, New Jersey Walmart Supercenter, according to the Record reports. Over the past two years, more than 52,000 associates have graduated from the new "academies", according to a company blog post, and the retailer says it has plans for 200 such academies, where front-line hourly supervisors, department managers and assistant managers receive two to six weeks of training, to be running nationwide by the end of the year. The North Bergen location trains workers from 30 stores in the northern New Jersey-New York area, the Record said.
"This really is the beginning of the changes we need to make that is really going to position us to be the best shopping experience," said Thomas Underwood, regional general manager for Walmart. The academies will train supervisors on merchandising, operations, customer service, and leadership.
The Walmart Academies provide hands-on training in retail fundamentals, leadership, and managerial skills for running individual store departments and instill core retail skills as well as “softer skills” like teamwork, customer service and punctuality, and Walmart recently revamped its training to speed up opportunities for advancement within the company.
Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it was tweaking its new wage policy, boosting training opportunities within the company, and adding jobs, all as part of a larger initiative to stay competitive in a tight retail marketplace. Walmart is not the only retailer to focus on higher wages to attract and retain quality help, either.
Besides raising its starting hourly minimum wage to $9 (first announced two years ago), Walmart is shortening the training time it takes for workers to increase their wage to $10 per hour from six months to three.
"Walmart is going to win because of academies like this across the nation," said Tracy Ferschweiler, market manager for seven Walmart stores, including the North Bergen location.