Arianna Suarez's first job after emigrating from Cuba as a teenager was as a cashier at a Walmart in Hialeah, Fla. Thanks in part to college-level classes that Walmart offers online, she has risen through the ranks to store manager and is now on her way toward earning a college degree.
From ethics to inventory management, the classes covered the skills Suarez needs to help run a round-the-clock, multi-million dollar retail operation with scores of employees. Even better, she has earned dozens of credits that she can put toward a bachelor's degree.
A growing number of Fortune 500 companies, like Walmart, have grown tired of waiting for colleges and universities to produce the skilled workers they need and have started offering their own classes instead. And as an added bonus for employees: Many of these courses -- from Starbucks' Barista Basics to Jiffy Lube's finance fundamentals -- are eligible for college credit.
"What companies like is just-in-time learning that gives somebody a skill they need at the time they need it," says Mark Allen, a Pepperdine University business professor and author of The Next Generation of Corporate Universities. "What traditional universities do to a large extent is just-in-case learning."
In Seattle, Starbucks workers take courses called Barista Basics and Barista 101. They can earn one and a half credits from City University of Seattle for each of the company's two barista classes, and three credits apiece for higher-level management courses.