BENTONVILLE, Ark.—As part of what it described as "Our ongoing effort to recognize the great work of our health and wellness associates while investing for the future," Walmart said it will be investing in the careers, training and in some cases, licensing for 4,000 opticians and 3,700 pharmacists. In an announcement and corresponding corporate Walmart blog post issued late yesterday, co-written by David Reitnauer, vice president, Walmart Health & Wellness, optical, and Kevin Host, senior vice president, Walmart Health & Wellness, pharmacy, the executives noted, "In many communities, Walmart’s pharmacy and vision center associates are the most accessible health care providers for busy families.

"Whether they are offering prescriptions and immunizations at everyday low prices, providing counsel or helping customers save money so they can live better, these associates are making a difference. As our Health & Wellness business continues to grow, we’re serious about being an employer of choice for the talented individuals in these fields. That’s why we’re proud to invest in pay raises for thousands of pharmacists and opticians in stores across the country."

The company will also be launching a new Optician Development program to help its vision associates access higher-paying roles and more career opportunities by obtaining nationally-recognized certification and licensure from ABO/NCLE, paid for by Walmart.

The blog stated that Walmart will be raising pay for more than 4,000 opticians. "After these investments, we expect the average wage for opticians to be more than $22.50 an hour. It’s another step in our strategy to offer good jobs that lead to great careers," the executives said.

The announcement continued, "We’re making it easier for our vision center teams to grow their careers with the launch of the new Optician Development Program. This will help our vision associates access higher-paying roles and more career opportunities by obtaining nationally recognized certification and licensure from the American Board of Opticianry and National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) as they continue to help patients see better to live better.

"The training is offered through the Optical Training Institute and is paid for 100 percent by Walmart, including reimbursement for any of the fees associated with the certification or licensure." A spokesperson told VMAIL, that Walmart has over 13,000 Vision Center associates eligible for the program.

In response to a question asking if the program is only applicable to associates in states requiring certification/licensure, the spokesperson said, "We want our customers across the country to have the same experience. What’s great about the Optician Development Program is it is our new baseline for optical training to ensure that we are able to provide consistent quality patient care independent of the state requirements."

Currently, she said, "We are assigning the program as part of the required training for our entry level optical roles in both licensing and non-licensing states. These associates will be assigned the training and will go through it with a sponsor.

"For our certified and licensed opticians, we wanted them to be able to view the program if they needed to go back and refresh or just to explore what is available so they have what we call the 'view option' where they can see all the content and take the quizzes and exams, but they are not assigned the content. This is purely for their own development."

Reitnauer and Host stated, "Our opticians play a critical role in helping customers access vision care at Walmart. From recommending the ideal frame and lens combinations and taking custom lens measurements to making frame repairs or ordering contact lenses, our opticians deliver great experiences while providing affordable, accessible and quality care."

Heather Oliveri, senior learning manager, Health & Wellness, Vision also told VMAIL, "We know that our experienced associates may move through the program faster and that’s great. The program and additional study resources from OTI will help prepare them for certification tests and licensure.

"Our goal with the launch of the Optician Development Program is to encourage all our associates to attain the top level of certification or licensure in their state. Not only does certification and licensure allow our associates to enter higher paying roles and open career pathways, but these professional achievements let their peers and the public know that they have the knowledge, skills and abilities required to provide quality patient care.”

Pharmacy will also be receiving a higher investment from Walmart, the executives noted. "We are excited to share that we have raised pay for approximately 3,700 pharmacists as we continue our work to offer attractive pay in every market where we operate. Our average salary for pharmacists is now more than $140,000, not including bonuses and incentives. Those investments build on the raises for 36,000 pharmacy technicians that took place last year."