Other employers should follow Amazon’s lead

A few years back while working for a corporation that was “Too-Big-To-Fail” there was a company perk that covered 80% of your tuition fees (up to $5000 per year) provided you met some academic requirements but mostly if it were beneficial to the company’s bottom line and you’d sign a contract to stay on for 5 years post graduation. It would be a great program if you felt that you had a career there but for everyone else, it wasn’t worth staying. For most people that expressed interest it was clear that it was nothing more than padding a company “perk” sheet than an useful perk.

Today, Amazon made a public announcement on their homepage outlining their new Amazon Career Choice Program. At it’s core, the Amazon Career Choice Program is not unlike the employee perk described above but with some major improvements – the most important one being that the training or certificate need not be related to working at or for Amazon.

As Amazon’s Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos puts it:

Many of our fulfillment center employees will choose to build their careers at Amazon. For others, a job at Amazon might be a step towards a career in another field. We want to make it easier for employees to make that choice and pursue their aspirations.

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. (emphasis ours)

There are some caveats however; for one Amazon’s program does not include people working towards a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. That said, Amazon’s Career Choice Program does open up opportunities for employees who would otherwise be shut out of similar programs; ultimately providing a shot at improving an employee’s chances of landing meaningful employment in a field that they are interested in.

It’s a radically different approach to an old employee benefit; one that may actually benefit the employee. It’s an approach that will fill holes in our economy and empower more people to pursue under-staffed fields in technology and engineering, as well as create pathways to employment in the health professions field (we’re living longer and are requiring more maintenance too). In the long run, more people working means more disposable income and more people shopping (on Amazon Bezos’ hopes).

Amazon will see net gains in terms of softening their image from local shop killer to egalitarian employer. Programs like these that would normally shut out interested employees who may not be currently working in their field of choice will see this as a launchpad to their career goals – it helps make the days go by quicker without building resentment against your employer.

Does this sound like a whole lot of PR for Amazon? Sure but if it can help some folks along the way I’m with it.

Source: Amazon Career Choice Program

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