Accelerating equity in education and labor mobility

Growing up in downtown Chicago as the child of an active, strong single mother and the eldest of three siblings, I learned firsthand that access to opportunity unlocks potential. My first job was delivering newspapers to my neighborhood, rain, snow or snow. It was on-the-job training, and I learned about time management, discipline, and commitment. These skills were fundamental professional learnings, which served me well when I continued my college studies and throughout my career.

These early experiences also shaped my passion for promoting growth and workforce mobility in underserved communities. Today, I am privileged to work with a group of associates from Walmart and Sam’s Club who have come together to help create equitable educational opportunities for Blacks and African Americans in two key areas: college partnerships and Historically Black Universities (HBCUs) and support for non-traditional career paths through skills development and degrees. As the nation’s largest private employer, we recognize the value of traditional and non-traditional education.

Our longstanding partnership with HBCUs continues to grow. We are proud to announce that Walmart and Sam’s Club will be hosting the first HBCU Student Summit in Northwest Arkansas October 7-10. During an immersive three-day weekend, we will invite HBCU students to join us for professional development workshops and interview opportunities.

We also continue to leverage the learnings as a starting point for other efforts, including:

  • Take a tour of Walmart Makers Studio, the first of its kind. The Walmart Makers Studio was originally launched in Atlanta in partnership with The Big Homecoming and will make appearances on the 365 Impact Tour. The project takes elements of the festival to HBCU campuses across the United States, educating and inspiring students in areas including education, leadership, entrepreneurship, health and financial literacy. Learn more here.
  • Sponsor the first HBCU New York Football Classic to celebrate Black excellence and culture. Learn more here.
  • Bringing HBCU merchandise to stores in October to meet customer needs.
  • Based on our Education Equity Initiative with North Carolina A&T State Universitywe expanded our engagement to include Walmart executives in residence in on-campus mentor circles and pairing 100 freshmen with mentors through the Black Male Initiative.

In addition to supporting college education, we must create multiple pathways to equitable advancement opportunities through non-degree degree programs. This is why the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, through Walmart and the Walmart Foundation, complements our work with philanthropic efforts to support advancement opportunities for workers without a college degree. Today, we’re announcing $2.5 million in grants from Walmart to support three organizations focused on these areas:

  • Future Jobs (JFF) expand its racial economic equity initiative and work alongside labor leaders in the South to co-design a community-based, worker-informed research agenda, and support communities to apply these learnings to create growth economic for black workers.
  • Foundation of the universities of 1890 will introduce a new faculty EXCEL scholarship program at the 1890s HBCU land-grant universities to help scholars assess non-traditional pathways for Black students and workers, and the role 1890s universities could play in supporting new short-term employment pathways, non-degree qualifications.
  • The Education Trust initiate research projects focused on understanding systemic barriers to post-secondary education for Black students and workers, including research to calculate the cost of accreditation programs for Black students by state.

I am excited about these efforts and the continued commitment I see at Walmart to working within our company and within our communities to address the root causes of racial disparity in education and beyond to help to advance racial equity. Our commitment is personal to many at Walmart because we see ourselves in this work. Just as my first job as a paperboy taught me diligence and perseverance, we constantly strive to create a workplace and community where there is a path for everyone and everyone feels like they belong.


Michael A. Bynum