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Amazon will teach you the skills to work elsewhere

Class is in session at Amazon

Retailer's Career Choice education program sees more than 10,000 workers participate, including in Kent.
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Retailer's Career Choice education program sees more than 10,000 workers participate, including in Kent.

Amid record-low unemployment in Washington state, employers are coming up with creative ways to keep their workers.

Not to be outdone, Amazon has found a creative way to send its employees to other employers.

This week, the online retailer announced 10,000 of its workers had participated nationwide in Career Choice program since its start in 2012, with the expectation of reaching 20,000 by 2020.

Amazon pays 95 percent of tuition for employees to pursue courses in in-demand fields, such as nursing or pharmacy, regardless of the relevancy to Amazon jobs.

The retailer has on-site classrooms at its Kent fulfillment center.

The program “is one of the many benefits that attracts high-quality talent who are looking to advance their careers whether at Amazon or beyond,” Ashley Robinson, an Amazon communications representative, said via email to The News Tribune. “We want to make it easier for employees to pursue what they’re passionate about, whether that’s at Amazon or elsewhere.”

Its Kent fulfillment center has “had dozens of Kent-based associates participate in Career Choice,” she noted.

Workers in DuPont and Sumner can participate as well.

“We have offered on-site courses through local career training programs at the DuPont facility,” Robinson said.

As a result of its research in national skills gaps, Amazon has expanded coursework in growing fields such as “robotics, engineering and technology, computer science,” among other careers.

“We help remove the barriers for employees by doing the homework for them to find the high-demand careers in their area, Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president for worldwide operations, said in a release touting the program’s success. “We exclusively fund those areas of study and work with local colleges.”

Amazon says that, nationwide, more than 500 of its workers are taking robotics-related courses.

“We want to make it easier for employees to pursue what they’re passionate about, whether that’s at Amazon or elsewhere,” Robinson said.

Sound enticing? Then start trying to get on at Amazon, which will be hiring later this year for its new Sumner warehouse.

In the meantime, Washington’s jobless rate was at 4.5 percent in May, the lowest since comparable record keeping started for the state in the year of the nation’s bicentennial, 1976.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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