‘War for talent’: Lowe’s expands educational benefits with debt-free college program | Business

Lowe’s is expanding its college benefits, the latest move by a big employer to try to attract and keep talent in a tight labor market.

The home improvement retailer said Wednesday its 300,000 full-time and part-time employees will have access to over 50 academic programs from 23 universities for free through the Guild Learning Marketplace, which works with companies to manage education assistance benefits.

The list of colleges includes Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Hispanic-Serving Institutions, including the University of Arizona, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Paul Quinn College in Texas and North Carolina A&T State University. The majority of courses are available online or can be completed in person, and have multiple start dates.

Lowe’s news comes just two weeks after the company announced it would invest $9 million in partnering with colleges to help under-served students.

Offering career training and advancement at Lowe’s helps retain skilled employees, which is crucial as Lowe’s prepares to open its South End tech hub center by summer, Lowe’s spokesman Steve Salazar said Tuesday.

“Tech is the core for how we have to operate,” Janice Dupré, Lowe’s executive vice president of human resources, told the Observer Tuesday. “It’s continuous learning in the war for talent.”

Dupré said over 50% of Lowe’s store leaders started as hourly workers and 70% of employees are promoted from within. “They can have a long-term career with Lowe’s,” she said.

The debt-free education is designed for working adults also helps knock down traditional barriers that make it difficult for people to get a degree, Dupré said.

Lowe’s new education program offers debt-free tuition assistance, meaning students graduate without loans, for undergraduate certificates or degrees, or enrollment in English language learning, high school completion or college prep programs.

Career tracts in the program include technology, cybersecurity, supply chain and data analytics fields.

Programs include flexible class scheduling, fully covered textbooks and course fees, and one-on-one support from guild coaches.

Students enrolled through employer programs are twice as likely as the average employee to receive a promotion or new role, guild research found.

Building on Lowe’s other programs

Also, Lowe’s continues to offer a tuition assistance program that pays up to $2,500 annually in up-front costs for more than 165 academic programs in the Guild catalog of top-tier schools, Salazar said.

For more than 20 years, Lowe’s has contributed to scholarships, according to the company.

Two weeks ago, Lowe’s said it would invest in select schools and scholarship programs to provide greater access to higher education to create a pipeline of talent. That includes $4 million in partnerships at Queens University of Charlotte and North Carolina Central University in Durham, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

Lowe’s also offers Track to the Trades, a company pre-apprentice certificate program to help up to 4,000 part-time and full-time associates pursue careers in the skilled trades, such as HVAC, appliance repair, electrical and plumbing.

Lowe’s has more than 2,200 home improvement and hardware stores in the US and Canada.

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