Amazon adds new education partners to its upskilling program for 750,000 workers

Employees now have programs at more than 140 colleges and universities to choose from

Six months after Amazon first announced it would cover full tuition costs for bachelor degrees for its roughly 750,000 hourly workers on the job for at least three months, the company today says it has added new education partners to its network which now tops more than 140 colleges and institutions.

Along with local colleges and universities, four national universities are now partnering with Amazon: Western Governors University, Southern New Hampshire University, Colorado State University-Global, and National University.

Tammy Thieman, Career Choice global lead, Amazon (Photo: Amazon)

“We’ve been very aggressive around selecting innovative partners who can help us deliver a top-tier program,” says Tammy Thieman, Global Lead of Amazon’s Career Choice Program, the company’s 10-year-old upskilling program.

The company has 110 classrooms for employees who want to study onsite at fulfillment centers, but Amazon associates also have the option to study at schools located in their communities or online. Thieman says a key part of the program is to offer choices to adult learners.

“You’ll see in our partners that some have a subscription model. Some work on a four-week rotating course cycle. Others are more traditional in that you have spring, summer, and fall semesters, and so really providing lots of different opportunities to ensure that we can get our folks in the right programs where they are going to be the most successful,” adds Thieman. 

She says Amazon carefully chooses education partners that are focused on adult learners and understand their unique work-life challenges. 

Western Governors University Partners With Amazon

One of its new partners is Western Governors University, an online university. Spencer Stewart, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Western Governors University describes WGU as being aligned with the working learner. 

Spencer Stewart, VP strategic partnerships, Western Governors University (Photo: WGU)

“For us, it’s all about linking education and opportunity and creating those pathways that will enable individuals to further their aptitude and realize their full potential,” says Stewart.

Stuart says Amazon associates are currently eligible for ten undergraduate programs with several generating heavy interest and demand. “One would include our undergraduate program in cybersecurity. Others would be within our undergraduate business management, human resources, and in network operations,” explains Stewart. He expects more courses to be offered to Amazon associates in the coming months that may include programs in teaching and in health professionals. 

He says the tuition for these programs for Amazon employees is approximately $5,250 regardless of the number of courses taken in a 12-month period. “We strongly feel higher education today needs to be as accessible as possible,” adds Stewart. 

Amazon’s $1.2B Commitment to Upskill

These latest additions to Amazon’s Career Choice program are part of Amazon’s $1.2 billion commitment to upskill 300,000 employees by the year 2025. 

And new partners are not just tied to college programs. For employees looking to complete high school or prepare for the GED, Amazon has partnered with GEDWorks and Smart Horizons. Voxy EnGen and goFluent are providing training for English language learners. Outlier, another partner, provides college prep courses

All of this comes as employers compete for workers, extending benefits to attract and retain talent. 

Last year, in a study with Gallup that Amazon commissioned, 65 percent of workers said that upskilling provided by employers was very important when considering a potential new job.

Thieman says the pandemic has also caused workers to look within. 

“Lots of folks, as a result of the pandemic, have kind of rethought, you know, my life changed, it got turned upside down and what’s my next step in light of all of this?” Of the fact that many people are willing to change jobs to pursue an opportunity to upskill, she adds:  “I think Amazon is certainly ready to support them.” 

(Photo: Amazon)