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Walgreens U area’s latest collegiate addition

Walgreens launched Walgreens University Deerfield provide classroom online programming for employees. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

Walgreens launched Walgreens University in Deerfield to provide classroom and online programming for employees. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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About Walgreens

Each day Walgreens’ 240,000 employees and 20,000 managers and assistant managers provide more than 6 million customers access to retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility and mail service, respiratory services.

As the nation’s largest drugstore chain it had sales of $72 billion in fiscal 2012 sales. There are 8,067 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Take Care Health Systems, a Walgreens subsidiary, is the largest manager of work site health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.

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Updated: March 23, 2013 6:37AM

You won’t find any football, basketball or soccer teams at Walgreens University, but teamwork is at the center of the company’s effort to double down on its employee education to promote long-term careers.

When the company cuts the ribbon on the new facility Friday, with Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO, it will represent a doubling of the annual financial investment in employee training and development.

“To meet our company goals, we need a work force that learns and grows every day through opportunities available when, where and how each individual needs it,” said Warren Lindley, divisional vice president, organizational design and effectiveness. “For Walgreens to compete effectively and expand our business, our team members need to continuously grow new skills and capabilities throughout their careers with us.”

The new university campus at 6 Parkway North in Deerfield has technology-enhanced classrooms, a mock drugstore and videoconferencing capabilities. It will also be home to the company’s 300 trainers and will be the base of operations for employee educational programs offered online and in regional locations nationwide.

“Walgreens University is not solely a building, but a national program with national access and offerings for team members at every level of the company,” said Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, chief human resources officer. “We hope every one of our 240,000 team members will find ways to grow their careers and improve themselves through the educational opportunities that Walgreens University will expand or introduce.”

Plans are to double the number of learning opportunities for employees through expanded online classes, regional training sessions and in the Deerfield campus classrooms. More than 100 courses will be available through one of the few corporate training programs to offer college credit for certain classes, including pharmacy technician training, and management and retail fundamentals.

Companies in the United States increased spending on training and development 12 percent last year, the highest growth rate in eight years, according to California-based Bersin by Deloitte, a human resources consulting firm.

“We aim to be the best in our industry for employee education and training, and among the best of all major American corporations,” said Wilson-Thompson. “...Our team members need to continuously grow new skills and capabilities throughout their careers with us.”

Education providers to Walgreens University include Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, offering a customized MBA program; University of Maryland University College; Webster University; the University of Phoenix; and DeVry University, Keller Graduate School of Management.

Tuition discounts of 10 to 25 percent will be available to many Walgreens employees, with some discounts offered to spouses and dependents. Employees also will have access to non-credit management courses offered online from Harvard Business Publishing, a subsidiary of Harvard University.

“There are small collaboration spaces for students with technology,” said Sal Venegas, director of learning and development as he led a tour of the new facility. “Then they can take a picture with their phones [to reference it later].”

The student is also immersed in the company culture and history. Conference rooms are named for Walgreen family members or other pioneer members of the company like Ivan “Pop” Coulsen, who invented the malted milkshake that was first served at a Walgreens. There is also a Caleb Danner, who worked with Charles Walgreen Sr., in his first store and was the company’s first African-American employee.

Walgreens University’s dean is Bruce Bryant, senior vice president with over 42 years at the company.

“The launch of Walgreens University is a significant step toward consistent, higher quality training for our entire team at every corner of America. It also makes Walgreens a great place to work and grow professionally,” he said.

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