- Amazon's 750,000 hourly employees now have access to a fully-funded college education. On March 3, the e-commerce giant announced its partnership with more than 140 national and local academic institutions.
- This development is part of Amazon's Career Choice upskilling initiative. The company is teaming up with Voxy EnGen and goFLUENT to help boost English skills for hourly workers, free of charge. Amazon also unveiled partnerships with GEDWorks and Smart Horizons to help employees finish their high school education and obtain GEDs, and Outlier to offer college prep courses for free.
- The Career Choice program is part of a bigger initiative, Upskilling 2025. Amazon pledged $1.2 billion in September 2021 to pay for employee education, at least through the year 2025.
A note-worthy aspect of this program is education as groundwork for career advancement. The three categories by which Amazon organizes Career Choice are foundations (ESL classes), pathways (job training) and college (credit or a full degree). Through the pathways track, for example, Amazon seeks to upskill its employees for another job – be it within the company or elsewhere.
Similarly in its language announcing Upskilling 2025, Amazon aims to position its roles as career stepping stones: workers "learn critical skills to move into in-demand, higher-paying technical or non-technical roles within Amazon and beyond."
Based on publicly available materials, Career Choice seems to be widely accessible. The program is available to all hourly employees who have worked 90 days or more for the company. Their education can be funded "as long as they remain at the company, with no limit to the number of years they can benefit." Amazon said it has built more than 100 onsite classrooms due to demand.
The retailer has also extended its offerings worldwide: the Career Choice program pays up to 95% of tuition and fees for hourly employees in 13 markets (Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the UK, Spain, Poland, South Africa and Slovakia.)
Amazon's L&D initiatives mirror those of its peers, such as Intel. In partnership with Dell Technologies, Intel expanded its AI for Workforce program in 2021 to offer community college students the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge relevant to the tech frontier, including coding, data collection and AI ethics.
Speaking about Career Choice in a press release, Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said the program's expansion is "great news for nontraditional learners."
"Higher education is our nation's most powerful engine of social and economic mobility, and this initiative will both expand access to postsecondary education and increase the number of learners who succeed in completing their degrees," he said.