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Amazon to Offer Tuition Assistance to Low Paid Workers

Amazon.com

July 25, 2012

Amazon.com may be known as the online place to search for deals on games, gadgets and more, but its executives have recently expressed an interest in helping produce a more educated workforce as well.

In a plan announced earlier this week, the online retailer said it would offer up to $2,000 a year to full-time hourly employees to use toward tuition and textbooks at accredited institutions, Life Inc. reports. The program offers the money up front instead of afterward as a reimbursement meaning that employees do not have to come up with the cash ahead of time.

"At Amazon, we like to pioneer, we like to invent, and we're not willing to do things the normal way if we can figure out a better way," Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, said in Life Inc. "It can be difficult in this economy to have the flexibility and financial resources to teach yourself new skills."

CNET reports the money is only available to employees who have worked three years full-time for the company and that it can be only used for specific vocational certifications or associate degrees -- aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, nursing and the like.

"The program is unusual," Bezos wrote as quoted by The Seattle Times. "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."

Proponents of the program indicate that it can help produce a more-educated workforce resulting in better customer service. It has also been noted that these employees, once they have completed their education, could end up leaving Amazon to pursue the career for which they received academic training.

However, some say that the $2,000 offer may not actually be enough to help employees afford to pursue the education they want. For example, a two-year degree in aircraft mechanics could cost anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000, Life Inc. notes. Other degrees, such as an associate degree in nursing, could also be more than a warehouse worker -- said to make an average of $12 an hour, according to glassdoor.com -- could afford.

"In many ways it's just a gesture because it just not a lot of tuition," Susan Heathfield, About.com's human resources expert, said to Life Inc. "Many companies I know provide assistance that goes far beyond that. But I'm not going to put Amazon down because I'm so happy to see this."


Compiled by Maggie O'Neill

Sources:

"Amazon Is Helping Employees Get Another, Unrelated Job," news.cnet.com, July 23, 2012, Donna Tam

"Amazon Offers Its Workers Chance to Become Nurses, Mechanics," lifeinc.today.msnbc.msn.com, July 24, 2012, Eve Tahmincioglu

"Amazon Offers Tuition Benefit Aimed at Lowest-Paid Employees," seattletimes.com, July 23, 2012, Amy Martinez

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