Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos frequently uses the e-commerce site’s front page as a place to announce changes in service or major new initiatives. As one of the most-trafficked sites on the web, it’s the perfect place to make a big splash. And today, he is using that space to announce its new Career Choice Program, which will provide tuition help for fulfillment center employees who seek careers in well-paying, in-demand areas like computer-aided design or medical lab technologies.
Amazon already touts its ability to pay fulfillment center employees about 30 percent more than retail store employees. But now it’s trying to help them find better-paying jobs. Through the Career Choice Program, Amazon has agreed to pay tuition for employees in its fulfillment centers, as long as they use the money to pay for courses in a select number of areas.
To qualify for the program, employees must have been employed full-time by Amazon for three consecutive years. But once they have reached that threshold, Amazon will provide up to 95 percent of their tuition, textbook, and other fees — up to a maximum of $2,000 per year for four years. That’s not enough to go to a four-year college, of course, but that’s not the goal of the program: Amazon is seeking to provide technical and vocational training for these employees. On the homepage, Bezos notes:
“The program is unusual. Unlike traditional tuition reimbursement programs, we exclusively fund education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.”
In fact, most of the courses that qualify have nothing to do with career enhancement or moving up the ranks within the e-commerce company itself. They include fields such as Engineering, Information Technology, Mechanical and Electrical Trades, Healthcare, Construction, Transportation, and Accounting. Specific examples of jobs that the e-commerce provider will help them train for include “aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technology, medical laboratory science, dental hygiene, and nursing.”
In a constrained economy, the goal is to provide employees with new skills and more career choice, which is important, especially as the company sometimes takes flak for the way its fulfillment center employees are treated. Providing them with tuition for training programs in high-paying jobs is one way to offer up hope and new opportunities.