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Bentonville, Ark. (Reuters) – Walmart (NYSE:WMT) Inc announced plans on Thursday to open four new fulfillment centers in the United States over the next two years, creating 4,000 new jobs that will expand its delivery network and make workers’ jobs easier.
The moves come as companies struggle to find and retain workers in a tight labor market. The nation’s largest retailer also plans to widen to all global employees an education and training program launched for U.S. workers in 2016.
The new centers, located in Joliet, Illinois; McCordsville, Indiana; Lancaster, Texas and Greencastle, Pennsylvania, could provide next-day and two-day deliveries to 75% of the U.S. population, company executives said.
Combined with existing distribution centers and orders fulfilled out of stores, deliveries could reach 95% of the population, the supply chain executives told media after an annual meeting in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The new jobs are in addition to the 20,000 supply chain positions the retailer said it would hire last year. The new employees will get hourly starting wages ranging from $16 to $28, the company said.
Designed by automation company Knapp, the new facilities will cut the number of steps in processing orders to five from 12, double storage capacity and process double the number of customer orders a day, Mike Prince, vice president of supply chain innovation and automation told the meeting.
Each facility sprawling over more than a million square feet (92,900 sq. m), will employ at least 1,000 workers.
The company, which employs 2.3 million workers, said it was piloting a new program in the summer to offer recent college graduates and students within 12 months of graduating an opportunity to jumpstart their careers.
“Our goal is to turn even more jobs into careers by strengthening a ladder of opportunity for our associates,” Chief Executive Doug McMillon told the annual general meeting on Wednesday.
The company expects more than 1,200 new store, club and supply chain managers in the United States to participate in the programme, called College2Career.
Top performers could be offered a newly-created management job of emerging coach, with starting wages of at least $65,000 a year, it added.
The role offers a faster step for high-potential candidates to become store managers, who earned an average wage of about $210,000 in 2021, the company said.
It has more than 5,000 U.S. stores that generate average annual sales of $100 million.
The average hourly wage for workers at its U.S. stores, clubs and supply chain now exceeded $17, up from $16.40, McMillon added.