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Inside Walmart's plan to hire more teenagers

CNBC logo CNBC 10/18/2019 Noah Higgins-Dunn
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The labor marker is tight.

Unemployment hit a 50-year low in September, and human resource departments across the country are scrambling for ways to attract new workers.

Walmart's plan involves courting teenagers. The company has 2.2 million employees globally. In the U.S., it has 1.4 million workers but fewer than 25,000 are in high school.

The company acknowledges that's a very small percentage, and it's especially small when compared with competitors.

So Walmart is trying a new recruiting approach: offering high school students free SAT and ACT prep, subsidizing a large chunk of their tuition, and offering them the chance to earn some college credit.

Hiring employees early in their careers comes with a number of benefits. It costs less to employ them, and it's typically easier to train them to fit the company's needs, since there are no old habits to break.

Others have also caught on to the advantages of hiring teens. Starbucks, McDonald's, Disney and Chipotle offer similar education benefits.

However, teenagers aren't working nearly as much as they used to. Back in the '70s, nearly 45 percent of teens had part-time jobs. In 2018, the national average fell to about 29 percent.

Questions remain about how long these programs will last. Is this the new norm for big retailers, or will these benefits disappear when the job market turns?

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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