Amazon.com wants to spread the knowledge of how it put together an ambitious employee training program that prepares entry-level, mostly warehouse workers for better-paying careers outside the company.
Amazon.com wants to spread the knowledge of how it put together an ambitious employee-training program that prepares entry-level, mostly warehouse workers for better-paying careers outside the company.
Juan Garcia, Amazon’s global leader for career advancement, said in a LinkedIn post that the company is “open-sourcing” the program, known as Career Choice. That’s basically providing the blueprint free to other companies so they can “build upon it, tailor it for their own use cases, and improve upon it,” Garcia wrote.
Career Choice is an Amazonian twist on the tuition-reimbursement programs common among many employers. The difference is that Amazon prepays 95 percent of the cost, and staffers aren’t required to study something related to furthering their Amazon career.
In fact, Amazon will pay for training only in high-demand fields that could lead to better-paying jobs, CEO Jeff Bezos said in a recent interview at a Recode conference in California. That means jobs in health care or, say, as an airplane mechanic. The program is 4 years old.
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“The last thing any enlightened company wants is for any employee in their company to feel trapped in that job,” he said. “If they want to be there, great. But if they want to be a nurse, then help them do that.”
Amazon’s move comes at a time when talk about inequality and pay stagnation among less-educated workers has risen to the top of the national agenda.
That tension is plainly visible within Amazon; it’s on pace soon to become the second-largest employer in the Fortune 500 after Wal-Mart, mainly thanks to the massive hiring it does at its expanding warehouse network. But salaries there are nowhere near those of highly paid engineers, researchers and data scientists working in South Lake Union, Palo Alto, Calif., and other core locations.
Amazon is also at the heart of the current debate about whether automation will take away jobs.
Other large companies have sought to address the issue of the rising pay gap. In 2014 Starbucks, also a massive employer of entry-level workers, launched a program it later revamped to cover full tuition for four years of an online college degree at Arizona State University.
Garcia, a former assistant secretary of the Navy who joined Amazon last year, wrote in his post that some 6,000 Amazon workers have participated in the training program.
Career Choice works with community colleges to offer classes right at the warehouses.
An Amazon spokeswoman said that the information the tech and retail giant plans to share with other companies includes how to pick what courses to pay for, how to run the administration of the program, how to do the classes on-site “as well as lessons we’ve learned along the way about what works and what doesn’t.”