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Walmart touts plans for thousands of jobs

An employee restocks at a Wal-Mart in Burbank, California, on Nov. 22, 2016. (Bloomberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon)

An employee restocks at a Wal-Mart in Burbank, California, on Nov. 22, 2016. (Bloomberg photo by Patrick T. Fallon)

Walmart on Tuesday announced that it plans to add 10,000 U.S. jobs and provide skills-building training to a quarter million of its workers by the end of 2017.

The vast majority of the new positions will be in its stores, including the 59 Walmart and Sam’s Club sites it is set to open, remodel or expand. The company says this level of job growth is consistent with what it has delivered over the last several years.

There are more than a dozen Walmart locations in the Rochester area, as well as two Sam’s Club locations.

In a news release outlining the moves, the world’s largest retailer sought to cast itself as an engine for U.S. employment growth.

“With a presence in thousands of communities and a vast supplier network, we know we play an important role in supporting and creating American jobs,” said Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, in the release.

That kind of messaging comes at a moment when President-elect Donald Trump has been sharply critical of companies that have moved jobs abroad or created new manufacturing facilities overseas.

In an interview, The Washington Post asked Bartlett if he thinks the current political environment made it particularly crucial to talk up Walmart’s employment strategies.

“It’s always important to articulate how you’re creating jobs in your country,” Bartlett said. “Obviously, the conversation happening in our country right now, there’s a role for the private sector to have a voice in that conversation. And I think companies should be proud to stand up and talk about how they’re making positive contributions in their communities. So the timing seems right.”

Other companies, too, have recently flaunted their commitment to creating jobs stateside. General Motors on Tuesday announced plans to invest $1 billion in U.S. factories and add 7,000 new jobs. Earlier this month, when Stanley Black & Decker bought the Craftsman tool brand, it said it would be manufacturing all those products stateside and growing its U.S. workforce to do so. said last week that intends to add 100,000 positions nationwide over the next 18 months. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

Along with the 10,000 positions Walmart plans to add in 2017, the company says it expects its investments will support an additional 24,000 construction jobs. The world’s largest retailer had previously announced it plans to spend $6.8 billion this year to do things such as build or remodel stores and establish new e-commerce distribution centers, moves that should foster demand in the construction business. The company developed this projection based on historical data about how many construction workers it has needed for such projects in the past.

Meanwhile, Walmart will also continue its effort to attract and retain talent by expanding its Academies program that provides special training for store workers. This year, it will open some 160 new Academies to offer this kind of instruction, a sharp jump over the 40 it has today.

“We’re really putting the foot on the gas pedal and just investing in this training, because we see the immediate benefit of it,” Bartlett said.

By adding more Academies, the company says it will be able to offer up to six weeks of training to more than 225,000 workers.

Walmart, like virtually every other player in corporate America, has an especially close eye on Washington these days, waiting to see the details of plans from the Trump administration and Congress that could dramatically reshape trade policy or corporate tax rules.

However, Bartlett said, “It’s way premature to try to calculate the puts and takes of the various policies that have been discussed.”

That’s in part because we haven’t heard the specifics yet of what these plans will call for.

But, he said, as more details emerge, they have a framework for evaluating them. “The lens that we typically look at these things is, how does it affect our customers?”

Walmart on Tuesday also shared the recipients of $3 million in grants that the Walmart Foundation is providing to six universities for studies of innovation in textile manufacturing, part of an earlier commitment it had made to funding research grants for projects on out how to make textiles more sustainably and to make more of them stateside.