Five Questions for Amazon’s Global Leader for Career Advancement, Juan Garcia
1) What makes Amazon’s Career Choice program different from other companies’ tuition assistance programs?
Many companies have generous tuition assistance programs, but Career Choice is peculiar in a number of ways. First, we designed the program specifically for the hourly associates in our Fulfillment Centers and other operations buildings. Also, we do the homework – working with data and predictions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and others – to determine which in-demand fields of study are most likely to lead to jobs, and fund only courses of studies that will lead to those occupations. Additionally, rather than serving as a retention tool, Career Choice is likely to lead Amazon associates to careers outside of Amazon; we don’t require associates to remain at Amazon for any period of time after they complete their education programs. Our aim is to help associates pursue their passions and their career goals, whether that means a career at Amazon or somewhere else.
2) It’s been exactly four years since you first piloted Career Choice. What is something you’ve learned over the course of that time?
We have been impressed by how many associates are eager to continue their education and obtain new skills. So, we have innovated new ways to reduce barriers to help even more people participate in Career Choice. For example, we learned to prepay tuition directly to the educational institutions so that no associate has to be out-of-pocket several hundred or several thousand dollars waiting for reimbursement. We also work with schools to bring their educators and classes on-site, inside our Fulfillment Centers. That eliminates barriers related to commuting and to working around associates’ shift schedules. In buildings where classes took place on-site, we have seen huge enrollment increases – as much as 150%. So, we decided to build classrooms specifically for this purpose, and today have several buildings in the U.S. with Career Choice-branded classrooms, front-and-center and impossible-to-miss when entering those Fulfillment Centers, to hold classes and inspire others to take part.
3) How is Amazon measuring the success of Career Choice?
We measure the success of Career Choice in two ways. One, are we providing this opportunity to as many associates as possible? And two, are we successfully helping those associates pursue their goals? On the first count, we’re excited that more than 7,000 Amazonians worldwide have participated in Career Choice since we began the program. On the second, there are hundreds of Amazonians who have gone on to pursue careers in their chosen job fields – like Dana from Pennsylvania who is now a nurse thanks to Career Choice, Sharie in Arizona who has become a commercial truck driver and dreams of buying her own big rig and starting her own company, and Tracy in Tennessee who became a certified EMT and is pursuing advanced training through Career Choice.
4) Does Amazon offer or plan to offer any assistance for people who finish a two-year degree and want to pursue a four-year degree?
Career Choice is designed to help people take that initial step toward pursuing their dreams. Its purpose is to open a door that might otherwise not have been open to an associate. In fact, when we research which in-demand job fields to support, we ask ourselves, “Will an entry-level job in this field put someone on a path with continued growth potential in both earning and learning?” So, at this time four-year degrees don’t meet the eligibility criteria for Amazon Career Choice.
5) What advice would you give to other companies considering creating tuition assistance program?
We’ve put together a toolkit for other companies to begin offering Career Choice to their employees in under 100 days. So, our best advice is: Get going. Don’t hesitate. We’re open-sourcing our program, and are eager to show other companies how we built it, share the lessons we’ve learned, and even offer resources to those putting it in place for their employees. It’s all because we believe in Career Choice – we know it’s beneficial to employees and beneficial to companies that offer it. If more companies join us in offering this benefit to their employees, we also believe it can be beneficial more broadly to our society.
Find out more at amazon.com/careerchoice
Hear firsthand from Career Choice participants…
Dana – Orefield, PA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0UfsmassRg
Sharie – Phoenix, AZ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76nIWtLQN1Q
Tracy – Chattanooga, TN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwS7xrth6Ic