Walmart opens training academy in Shawnee
A sea of blue caps and gowns filled the Lawn & Garden department Thursday at the Shawnee Walmart on West 65th Street.
As Walmart executives proudly posed for photos with each student and shook their hands, cheers erupted from the packed audience.
The 54 hourly supervisors were the first graduating class of the brand new Walmart Academy, which officially opened its doors last week.
At the graduation ceremony, Walmart executives also handed out three $1,000 grants, with each going to the American Legion, the Shawnee Fire Department and Broken Arrow Elementary school, respectively.
The new Walmart Academy, a 2,500 square-foot educational space positioned in the back of the Shawnee Walmart, will serve employees from 25 Kansas City area Walmarts on both sides of the state line.
The academy features five classrooms and 90 iPads.
General training will be mandatory for hourly supervisors and assistant managers, no matter if they are new employees or seasoned ones.
“Education and training is really our future because want our employees to do things the right way in each store,” Doug Portenier, the Shawnee Walmart store manager. “It’s about consistency.”
The Shawnee Walmart Academy is expected to train 1,400 employees within the next few months.
“We’ve always done training, but this is the first time we’ve done training one best way with the use of technology,” said Karisa Sprague, the senior vice president for the North Central Division of Walmart. “The trainers are all Walmart operators, so they’ve done the job and they have credibility the moment they walk through these doors.”
For Sprague, the training is about giving employees the opportunity to obtain the career they want.
And she knows a thing or two about climbing up the Walmart ladder.
Fifteen years ago, Sprague was an hourly intern. Now, she’s a powerful executive.
According to the Walmart website, the company promotes 160,000 people to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay. About 75 percent of Walmart store management began as hourly associates.
“Our employees are excited to be invested in,” Sprague told the Dispatch. “When you learn, you’re at your best and that builds your confidence. We’re seeing employees go back to the store from these academies, asking to do more. They want more responsibility.”
There are currently 45 Walmart academies in the United States, with a total of 200 expected to be open by the end of the year.
The first academy opened last March in Carrollton, Texas.
The academies offer general hands-on training, as well as department specific training.
Training lasts anywhere from two days to two weeks, depending on the type.
One of the employees at the Shawnee Walmart grateful for the training is Hamdi Al Sammarraie, a support manager for the grocery department.
He graduated last week.
“It was good and I got a lot of experience,” he said “They taught us a lot, like how to run the floor and run sales and safety.”
Al Sammarraie started working at the Shawnee Walmart over a year ago. He moved to the United States from Iraq two years ago.
“I like working here because the managers are really supportive and they’re all really nice,” he said.
His wife has noticed a positive difference in him since he began working at Walmart.
Since he often interacts with customers, the job has allowed his English to improve significantly. Plus, his confidence has soared.
“I’m really proud of him,” said his wife, Shagan Abdulateef.
Walmart executives are proud of Shawnee’s first graduating class as well.
And while the academies are part of the company’s $2.7 billion commitment to its associates, the new training is equally beneficial to its customers, they pointed out.
“We want customers to walk into any Wal-Mart and see that it’s clean and find what they need,” said Trey Brown, Shawnee Walmart Academy manager. “We want them to have a good experience at all our stores.”
The Walmart Supercenter is at 16100 W. 65th St.