Why The Nation's 2 Largest Private Employers Say Not Everyone Needs a Traditional Degree

Why The Nation's 2 Largest Private Employers Say Not Everyone Needs a Traditional Degree

Andrew Chambers

May 10, 2024

Around 90% of Home Depot’s store leaders started out as hourly associates. The same is true for about 75% of Walmart’s store leaders.

Store leaders are people that manage (literally) hundreds of people and often make over six-figures a year - before the bonuses and stock grants. 

Some of them have traditional college degrees - many don’t. 

Ted Decker is the CEO of Home Depot and John Furner is the President of WalMart US. Together, their companies represent a whopping two million jobs across all types of sector and skill base. It’s safe to say they know a little bit about prosperity, workforce development, and success in the marketplace.

So last month, when they held a workforce summit in DC to talk with business leaders, government officials and workforce experts about which skills matter for which careers, how to assess workers’ abilities and how to teach skills on the job - people listened. 

Their message? “While a (traditional) college degree is a worthwhile path to prosperity, it’s not the only one.” Considering that 62% of American adults don’t possess traditional degrees - it definitely shouldn’t be the only path to prosperity, either.

Their proposal? A skills based approach to employment where employers “value skills above degrees and recognize that workers can develop skills in many different ways.”

A skills based approach to hiring workers sounds like common sense (because it is), but it is an idea that is just taking hold of the marketplace over the last 20 years and still has a lot of room to run. 

So what’s needed for us to complete the transition from a (traditional) degree based economy to a skills one? According to Mr. Decker and Mr. Furner, we need a few things:

  1. A critical mass of employers valuing skills above traditional degrees
  2. Employers willing to “upskill” employees after they join
  3. A system where workers can easily transfer skills from one company or industry to another.

Wal-Mart and Home Depot are doing their part. 

Wal-Mart not only has pathways for entry level associates to become store leaders, they’ve also created a track for hourly employees to become commercial truck drivers and earn $110,000 in their first year - without having to get a CDL license.

For Home Depot’s part, they’ve created a program called “Orange Method” that offers IT training and a pathway to become a software engineer or corporate level leader. They also offer free trades training called “Path to Pro” in an effort to fill the skilled labor gap. 

What does all this mean? We’ll let Mr. Decker and Mr. Furner speak for themselves. Here’s how they end their Wall Street Journal article: 

The American dream isn’t dead, but the path to reach it might look different for job seekers today than it did for their parents. We owe it to younger generations to open our minds to the different opportunities workers have to learn new skills and achieve their dreams.

At Excel College, we partner with employers and students to help students pursue meaningful careers and employers build successful, community building businesses. But it’s not the job training that sets us apart. We pair a world-class Biblical liberal arts curriculum with apprenticeships in the context of a thriving Christian community so that students graduate with a resume AND a firm foundation. 

To read the original WSJ article, click here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/not-everyone-needs-a-college-degree-home-depot-walmart-training-edf421

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