As companies compete for workers in the tightest labor market in years, they’re rolling out new education benefits like college coaching and student loan repayments to recruit employees.

Rariety Monford, 27 years old, product supervisor at health-care company Abbott Laboratories, is a beneficiary. Growing up in Cincinnati as the daughter of a single mother, Ms. Monford was the first in her family to attend college. But it meant racking up $60,000 in student loans, which Abbott is now helping her pay down as part of a program launched this summer.

“It’s a really good deal, especially right now early in my career,” said Ms. Monford, who is also pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Her employer is paying for that degree in full.

Unemployment is near an 18-year low, and many companies are competing for talent across industries by dangling extra perks. With student loan debt at $1.5 trillion and counting, according to the Federal Reserve, education benefits are top of mind, experts say.

“We hire close to 900 people a day,” said Tim Massa, Kroger Co.’s senior vice president of human resources. Today’s workers “want to know what companies will do to grow and develop them.”

Te-Ping Chen
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