Amazon has expanded its Career Choice program to offer its hourly employees fully funded college tuition in partnership with more than 140 colleges and universities, some of which call Colorado home.
Hourly employees who have worked at Amazon for 90 days are eligible to participate in the Career Choice program, Amazon’s upskilling program designed to help front-line employees grow their skills for career success. Employees can pursue a bachelor’s degree, earn industry certifications and build skills with English language proficiency courses.
On top of tuition, Amazon is also partnering with a variety of organizations to provide high school completion and GED preparation for free.
Colorado institutions participating in the program include Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado State University Global, which is fully online, as well as Utah-based Western Governors University, another online option. Amazon has fulfillment centers in Aurora, Colorado Springs and Thornton.
Will Simpkins, vice president of student affairs at MSU Denver, said this is a great opportunity for the university to support educational goals for all members of the local community. He said Amazon came to MSU to ask if the university was interested in the program, which Simpkins said is exciting because it means the company knew about the school.
“The folks who work at Amazon distribution centers will join a community that looks and feels just like them,” Simpkins said. “... This is the university that is focused on helping Coloradans meet their career goals, so we couldn't be prouder to participate.”
Simpkins noted that MSU Denver’s average student age is 26 and said it's a comfortable learning environment for adult learners. He said the university works with a number of employers across the state and region, ranging from small businesses to large corporations to provide educational opportunities for staff.
“Essentially any employer that is offering a tuition reimbursement or benefit of some sort, we are happy to partner with them, particularly as they're trying to help their staff complete a bachelor's degree,” Simpkins said. “... We think it's really cool that Amazon is investing in their talent in this way and we're just so proud that they chose us.”
To Simpkins, the old model of going to college right after high school, living on campus and working a summer job to pay tuition is virtually gone, so the ability to work while in school is a smart decision especially if an employer provides a tuition assistance program.
“The student who is working for an organization that is invested in their future that says, ‘When you finish this degree, let's talk about a promotion,’ that’s a much smarter move for the student and it's a much smarter move for the industry partner, because you're investing in each other,” Simpkins said. “I think that's what everyone's looking for right now. I think that's actually the solution to a lot of our talent pipeline needs.”