Retail giant Amazon announced Tuesday that it's adding academic and career coaching to its list of employee benefits, as retailers fight to recruit and retain workers in a tight labor market.
The move comes as workers are demanding better pay and benefits. Last week, a Trader Joe’s in Hadley, Massachusetts became the chain's first to vote to unionize.
For its new benefit, Amazon is partnering with education organizations Beyond 12 and Kaplan to expand on the retailer's existing Career Choice program (one of Amazon’s nine skills-training programs, designed to put employees on a path toward well-paying, in-demand professions). Today, more than 80,000 workers participate in the Career Choice program, Amazon said.
Amazon currently offers its more than 750,000 hourly employees pre-paid college tuition. This new partnership will expand benefits, and also provide employees with virtual one-on-one coaching, college advising and specialized career services such as networking, resume development and job interview preparation, the company said.
“While Career Choice has always been complemented by advisement services, feedback from participants has shown that more comprehensive and ongoing coaching would help employees choose programs better aligned to their career goals. We want Amazon team members to successfully navigate the challenges of going to school while working, and ultimately use their new skills to find incredible opportunities,” said Tammy Thieman, global director for career choice at Amazon, in a statement. “These partnerships with Beyond 12 and Kaplan are a game-changing enhancement to our program and the careers of Amazon’s employees.”
Beyond 12 is a national technology-based nonprofit whose mission is to improve the outcomes of students from under-resourced communities. Kaplan helps prepare students for higher education by offering test preparation programs (including license and certification exams), English learning, and degree and pathway programs. Kaplan’s program will also provide career services to Amazon employees.
“Kaplan is committed to helping people succeed, and this exciting new partnership with Amazon builds on our proud legacy of changing lives and building stronger futures. We’re thrilled to be empowering so many thousands of hardworking employees at Amazon and look forward to being at their side until they’ve reached their educational and professional objectives,” said Greg Marino, CEO of Kaplan’s North America division in a statement.
Alexandra Bernadotte, founder and CEO of Beyond 12 stated, “Eliminating the barrier of tuition is a tremendous benefit for Amazon employees, but postsecondary education completion gaps can’t be ignored. Our coaching program helps identify and address the systemic and structural barriers students face before those challenges lead them to drop out. We’re pleased to partner with Amazon to go beyond getting students ‘into’ college and focus on getting students ‘through’ college.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with some college but no degree earn 18% more than their peers with just a high school diploma, while those with a bachelor’s degree earn 62% more, Amazon noted in its release. Harvard University studies found that fewer than 40% of community college students earn a certificate or degree within six years of enrollment, and completion rates are even lower for minorities, older students and part-time students, the company said.
Amazon joins retailers such as Walmart and Publix in offering education benefits to workers.
Walmart offers higher education opportunities to its employees, and pays 100% of the cost of college tuition and books through a retailer-sponsored program, according to the company’s website.
The benefits are for field-based associates to pursue a college degree through Live Better U, which Walmart launched in 2018.
Live Better U features an online curriculum of over 60 programs, including degrees and certificates in fields such as business management, supply chain, cybersecurity and computer technology. To date, more than 65,000 associates have participated in the program, and more than 8,000 have graduated.
Any Publix Super Markets associate with 90 days of continuous service who works an average of 10 hours a week is eligible to participate in their tuition reimbursement program, the company said. With a manager's approval, individual courses, occupational or technical programs, undergraduate programs and reimbursement for graduate degrees are available. Publix also offers formal mentoring programs, ongoing development training, leadership development programs, and technical and operational training programs such as national food safety training and certification, CPR/AED and first aid.
Cicero Vieira, an Amazon fulfillment center employee in Baltimore said in a statement that participating in Amazon’s Career Choice Coaching program “has been a valuable experience.”
“To know I have a personal coach I can rely on, build a rapport with, and who is committed to helping me advance my career goals has been reassuring," Vieira said.