Amazon offers free college courses for employees

Finding time to pursue higher education is getting easier for Amazon employees.

E-commerce giant partners with college education platform Outlier.org to offer its 750,000 hourly employees access to a library of college courses, available for free. Class time can be transferred for college credit at universities, including the University of Pittsburgh.

“We want to meet learners where they are, no matter where they are in their educational journey or career path,” says Tammy Thieman, global program manager for Amazon’s Career Choice program. “We are very committed to ensuring that our employees get a good return on their investment of time for education.”

Read more: Employers may need to go back to school to recruit talent

Employees can register for 18 courses offered on the Outlier.org platform. Learning modules start every two weeks, making scheduling accessible. Removing these common barriers helps steer more employees toward a career and learning path that’s right for them, Thieman says.

“We have people coming in after they’ve finished high school and haven’t gone any further, or maybe got a few college credits before entering the workforce,” she says. “So we have redoubled our efforts to meet people where they are and help them take the next step. And it looks different for everyone.

Employees are increasingly eager for opportunities to expand their knowledge outside of the office. Nearly 70% of workers would change jobs if they received free job training, according to research from Amazon and Gallup.

Read more: Free college? This company makes it a reality

However, there is still a significant gap between interest and engagement. While 80% of employees are interested in going to school while working, only 20% know if their employer offers an education benefit, according to a survey by employee education platform InStride. For those in the know, only 2% participate in the perks available.

Promoting the importance of higher education and ensuring employees participate is central to a continuing education initiative for Amazon, says Thieman. Company plans to invest nearly $1.2 billion in higher education programs by 2025, including tuition reimbursement, diploma and GED programs, and ESL certifications . Fifty thousand employees have already taken part in Career Choices offers.

Read more: Employee training is the key to preventing costly skills shortages

With the big quit giving workers the ability to find employers who are fully invested in their success, education benefits can set an employer apart, Thieman says. The long-term impact for employees and employers is enormous.

“Our employees have told us that career success is important,” she says. “They care about improving skills. They care about skill development and career progression. Helping people take the next step in their career will continue to be important as we move forward.

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