Retailers

Amazon Joins Walmart, Target in Offering Employees Full College Tuition

Whole Foods Market team members excluded from benefit
Amazon College Tuition
Photograph courtesy of Amazon

Amazon’s more than 750,000 operations employees in the U.S., including hourly employees at Amazon Fresh stores, are now eligible for fully funded college tuition, including the cost of classes, books and fees, through the company’s newly expanded Career Choice program for its U.S. employees. The company has also added three new skills training programs for employees to help them transition into jobs as data-center technology technicians, IT engineers and user experience designers.

Following recent announcements from Walmart and Target, both of which now offer free college tuition for associates, the Seattle-based retailer said it would expand its Career Choice education and skills training program with a total investment of $1.2 billion by 2025. In addition to fully funded college tuition, Amazon’s Career Choice program will also fund high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency certifications for its front-line employees—including those who have been at the company for just three months. 

But while Career Choice is available to all full- and part-time Amazon employees, including hourly employees at Amazon Fresh stores, additional Amazon physical stores, and a handful of Amazon subsidiaries, it does not include Whole Foods Market team members, an Amazon spokesperson told WGB in an email.

Amazon is also adding three new education programs to give employees the opportunity to learn skills in 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, in a release. “We launched Career Choice almost 10 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,” Clark continued. “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.”

In addition to college tuition funding, starting in January, Amazon front-line employees will have access to additional education benefits through Career Choice, including prepaid tuition and fees (rather than reimbursement after coursework completion) and continued access to funds for education as long as they remain with the company.

Amazon is also launching three new upskilling programs—all tuition-free for participants—to provide more career-advancement opportunities for its employees. The programs include AWS Grow Our Own Talent, Surge2IT, and The User Experience Design and Research Apprenticeship.

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 is designed to help them pursue roles to innovate within Amazon Web Services (AWS) data centers and deliver high-quality cloud computing services to customers, says the company. Participating employees are hired into roles such as data center technician and operations technician 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 skills necessary to advance their IT career, such as by working on Amazon Robotics picking and stowing technology. Participants who complete the course and move up at Amazon can make an additional $10,000 a year, according to the company.

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. Graduates, Amazon says, are ready for jobs that help improve the experience of Amazon customers.

“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,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation SVP Cheryl Oldham said in a statement. “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.”

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