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Amazon to pay employees’ college tuition

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Company says it's investing $1.2 billion in education, training

SEATTLE — Amazon said Thursday that it will fund full college tuition for its front-line employees as part of a $1.2 billion investment in expanded education and skills training benefits for its U.S. employees.

Amazon LogoAlong with college tuition, the company’s Career Choice program will fund high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency certifications for workers who have been with the company for at least three months. Amazon said it is also adding three new education programs to provide employees with the opportunity to learn skills within data center maintenance and technology, IT, and user experience and research design.

“Amazon is now the largest job creator in the U.S., and we know that investing in free skills training for our teams can have a huge impact for hundreds of thousands of families across the country,” said Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. “We launched Career Choice almost ten years ago to help remove the biggest barriers to continuing education—time and money—and we are now expanding it even further to pay full tuition and add several new fields of study. This new investment builds on years of experience supporting employees in growing their careers, including some unique initiatives like building more than 110 on-site classrooms for our employees in Amazon fulfillment centers across 37 states. Today, over 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives.”

Amazon is the latest retail company to add education benefits in a bid to attract and retain workers, and provide them with a path for advancement. Walmart in July expanded its Live Better U educational benefit to include the full cost of college tuition and books for participants in the program.  Target added a debt-free education assistance program for its more than 340,000 front-line team members.

Starting in January, Amazon front-line employees will have access to even more education benefits through Career Choice, according to the company. They include:

  • Funding for College Tuition. More than 750,000 operations employees across the U.S. will be eligible to have their full college tuition paid for at hundreds of education partners across the country. In addition to funding associate and bachelor’s degrees, Amazon’s Career Choice will also fund high school completion, GEDs, and ESL proficiency certifications.
  • Pre-Paid Fees. Amazon will pay employees’ tuition and fees in advance rather than offering reimbursement after coursework completion, ensuring employees don’t need existing funds to start accessing the education options they want.
  • Limitless Learning. Amazon front-line employees will have access to annual funds for education as long as they remain at the company, with no limit to the number of years they can benefit.
  • Fast Starts. All 750,000 U.S. hourly employees are eligible to participate in Career Choice 90 days after starting at Amazon. This makes all 400,000 employees who joined the company since the start of the pandemic eligible to access Amazon-funded education opportunities.

“I worked in a warehouse setting for years but knew I wanted to help people and had been curious about healthcare,” said former Amazon operations employee and Career Choice graduate Patricia Soto. “In just nine months, I became a certified clinical medical assistant while working at Amazon in Tracy, California, thanks to Career Choice. A career in healthcare would have been difficult to obtain without tuition support from Amazon and an internship opportunity to apply my new skills.”

In addition to the expanded Career Choice benefits, Amazon said it is also launching three new upskilling programs—all tuition-free for participants—to provide even more career-advancement opportunities for its employees:

  • AWS Grow Our Own Talent offers on-the-job training and job placement opportunities to Amazon employees and entry-level candidates with nontraditional backgrounds. The training will help them pursue roles to innovate within Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers and safely deliver high-quality cloud computing services to customers. Participating employees are hired into roles like data center technicians and operations technicians, and complete in-person, on-the-job training for up to six months.
  • Surge2IT is designed to help entry-level IT employees across Amazon’s operations network pursue careers in higher-paying technical roles through self-paced learning resources. The course helps employees develop the skills necessary to advance their career in the information technology field, such as supporting the Amazon Robotics picking and stowing technology. Participants who complete the course and move up at Amazon can make an additional $10,000 a year.
  • The User Experience Design and Research Apprenticeship program combines instructor-led training and real-world experience in a one-year program that offers employees the opportunity to learn and develop skills in research and design on teams across Amazon, including Prime Video, Alexa, AWS, and Amazon Fashion. Graduates are ready for jobs that help improve the experience of Amazon customers, from making payments easier on Amazon sites to designing features that make devices more accessible.

“Today, there are not enough workers to fill every open job in the United States, which means that businesses are struggling to hire—especially for roles that require specific or technical skill sets,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Senior Vice President Cheryl Oldham. “When large employers like Amazon commit to investing in their people through upskilling programs, especially in technical fields, it helps to ensure that the business community has access to a workforce pipeline that meets their needs today and in the future. At the Chamber Foundation, we work with employers across the country to pursue solutions that ensure American workers have the right skills to best support and grow our economy and we applaud Amazon for the investment they’re making in the workforce.”

Two years ago, Amazon announced Upskilling 2025, a $700 million commitment to train 100,000 U.S. employees by 2025 to help them transition into in-demand, higher-paying jobs. Since the launch of Upskilling 2025 in 2019, more than 70,000 employees have participated in one of Amazon’s nine upskilling programs. With today’s additional investment and expanded education benefits for employees, the company is more than tripling its original pledge – with plans to invest $1.2 billion in these programs and provide free skills training to 300,000 employees over the next four years, the equivalent of more than 30% of the company’s current workforce in the U.S.

Amazon has seen a surge in applications to participate in education programs since the start of the pandemic, reflecting increased interest from employees to fortify their skillsets. Amazon Technical Academy, an upskilling program that helps Amazon employees from all backgrounds become software engineers in nine months, received thousands of applications, with interest increasing 460% over the past 18 months. To accommodate a surge in demand, Amazon scaled all of its upskilling programs, adapting to work-from-home schedules, and welcoming more participants by pivoting from in-person to virtual training. In addition to the new and expanded programs outlined above, Amazon employees have free access to the following skills training programs:

  • Amazon Technical Academy trains employees from across the company to become Amazon software engineers. The nine-month-long internal training program does not require a computer science background or a degree. Amazon Technical Academy has placed 98% of its graduates into software development engineer roles within Amazon, with their salary and compensation packages increasing an average of 93% as a result. This year more than 40% of Amazon Technical Academy graduates came from Amazon’s operations network.
  • The Amazon Technical Apprenticeship program creates paths to technical jobs, primarily for veterans and military spouses looking to transition into technical professions. Amazon currently employs over 40,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses across multiple businesses and recently announced plans to hire 100,000 U.S. veterans and military spouses by 2024.
  • AWS Training and Certifications offers Amazon employees access to more than 500 free digital courses to build cloud computing knowledge. As part of this program, AWS Tech U offers an accelerated 48-week career-development program that blends project-based learning and on-the-job training to help early-career employees in technical fields advance their skills.
  • Machine Learning University is a state-of-the-art training program curated and delivered by Amazon employees. It helps employees with a background in technology and coding gain graduate-level skills in machine learning and AI to solve customer problems.
  • Mechatronics and Robotics Apprenticeship program participants learn the skills and technical knowledge needed to pursue a technical maintenance role supporting Amazon’s robotics technology. Hundreds of Amazon apprentices have earned nearly 3,000 certifications to date. Upon completion of their apprenticeship, participants could make an additional $16,000 on average each year in their new roles at Amazon.


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