- As more retailers begin offering employee education benefits, Amazon will pay for the full college tuition, high school diploma, GEDs and English as a Second Language (ESL) certification for all of its U.S. front-line employees as part of its Career Choice program.
- Employees will have access to the education benefits beginning in January, the company announced on Thursday. Amazon will cover the educational expenses for employees who've been working there for at least three months. The company expects the investment to cost $1.2 billion by 2025.
- The company is also adding three upskilling programs: AWS Grow Our Own Talent, Surge2IT, and the User Experience Design and Research Apprenticeship program. Each will be accessible to employees for free, per the announcement.
Amazon noted in its announcement that it had seen a 460% spike in employee interest for its Amazon Technical Academy upskilling program over the past 18 months. The company said it began offering virtual training sessions during the pandemic and expanding its upskilling programs to account for the increasing demand.
"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," Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, said in a statement. "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."
Other major retailers have been introducing education benefits for their workers, too. Last month, Target announced plans to reimburse its U.S. associates for education costs for select undergraduate degrees and certification programs. The month before that, Walmart said it changed its policy to cover all of the expenses for its Guild Education employee learning program.
But as Amazon introduces new educational benefits to workers, the company's treatment of its employees remains under close watch. Back in April, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted not to unionize. At the time, the company said it did not discourage workers from voting for the union. However, Amazon workers may have the opportunity to vote again after a federal labor official indicated that the company had, in fact, engaged in anti-union behavior to deter workers from forming a union, NPR reported last month. And last week, six U.S. senators called for a federal investigation into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees at its warehouses, according to WBUR.