Amazon’s more than 750,000 U.S. employees will soon be eligible to get a free college education with classes, books and additional fees covered.
The e-commerce giant announced Thursday that it is expanding its education and skills training benefits to all hourly employees starting in January. Employees are eligible after 90 days of employment. Amazon expects to invest a total of $1.2 billion by 2025.
According to an Amazon-Gallup American Upskilling Study, a large percentage of American workers would switch to a new job if offered free skills training opportunities. Competitors Target and Walmart recently announced free college programs for their employees.
Amazon said that through its Career Choice program it will cover full tuition for associate and bachelor’s degrees at hundreds of education partners across the country and will fund high school completion, GEDs, and ESL proficiency certifications.
“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.
More than 50,000 employees have participated in the program, which was launched about 10 years ago “to help remove the biggest barriers to continuing education – time and money,” Clark said.
The company is building more than 110 on-site classrooms in Amazon fulfillment centers in 37 states.
Amazon said it will pay employees’ tuition and fees in advance “rather than offering reimbursement after coursework completion, ensuring employees don’t need existing funds to start accessing the education options they want.” Employees also will have access to “annual funds for education as long as they remain at the company, with no limit to the number of years they can benefit.”
It’s also expanding other upskilling training programs offered to employees, including adding three education programs to give employees the opportunity “to learn skills within data center maintenance and technology, IT, and user experience and research design.”