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Target joins rival Walmart in covering college costs for workers

Walmart announces huge perk for its workers
Walmart announces huge perk for its workers 00:22

Target is offering its 340,000 U.S.-based employees the chance to go to college for free, less than a week after bigger retail rival Walmart made the same arrangement for its 1.5 million workers. 

The Minneapolis-based retailer will spend $200 million during the next four years to offer part-time and full-time workers "debt-free undergraduate degrees, certificates, free textbooks and more, with no out-of-pocket costs," Target said on Wednesday. Starting in the fall, Target employees can participate in 250 business-aligned programs from more than 40 schools, colleges and universities.

"A significant number of our hourly team members build their careers at Target, and we know many would like to pursue additional education opportunities," Melissa Kremer, Target's chief human resources officer, said in a statement. "We don't want the cost to be a barrier for anyone, and that's where Target can step in to make education accessible for everyone."

Target's move follows closely in the footsteps of Walmart, the country's largest private employer. Walmart last week announced it would spend nearly $1 billion over the next five years to provide free training and career development for workers.

The perks are another illustration of the difficulty many companies are having in finding and keeping workers — particularly those toiling at the lower rungs of the income ladder, with issues ranging from pandemic health concerns to problems with childcare weighing on the U.S. job market. 

Target and Walmart were among the retailers giving bonuses to employees for continuing to work during the pandemic, and both offered incentives including paid time off to encourage workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Walmart earlier this year hiked pay for 425,000 workers, or nearly a third of its U.S. workforce, bringing its average pay overall to a little over $15 an hour, but keeping its starting minimum at $11 an hour. Target raised its starting pay by $3 to $15 an hour in July 2020.

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