Amazon Is Investing $1.2B to Provide College Tuition and Skills Training for Its Employees

43 percent of Texas workers say they'd leave their jobs if another company offered free skills training opportunities. In a tight labor market, Amazon's move could attract talent nationwide—including people like Tory Bias, a Dallas-based Amazon UX apprentice we spoke with today.

With 1.4 million more jobs now open than there are employees to fill them, companies will do almost anything to attract talent. Today Amazon announced a game-changing move of its own: It will invest $1.2 billion in education and skills training for its workforce by 2025—including full college tuition available to 750,000 U.S. operations employees.

Front-line employees who’ve been with Amazon for at least three months are eligible to receive full college tuition—including the cost of classes, books, and fees—along with funding for high school diplomas, GEDs, and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency.

For more details about Amazon’s Career Choice education opportunities, click here.

Data center, IT, and UX skills training programs

Amazon is also offering three new skills training programs to help employees transition into jobs as data center technicians, IT engineers, and user experience designers. The company’s employees now have access to nine education and skills training programs—all 100% funded by Amazon.

The company hopes its investment will help attract the workers it needs—while giving people the skills to pursue higher-paying, in-demand roles at Amazon and beyond.

“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,”said Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, in a statement. “We launched Career Choice almost 10 years ago to help remove the biggest barriers to continuing education—time and money—and we’re now expanding it even further to pay full tuition and add several new fields of study,”  

The new investment builds on years of support for growing employees’ careers at Amazon—including offering more than 110 on-site classrooms for employees at Amazon fulfillment centers in 37 states. Over 50,000 Amazon employees have already participated in Career Choice worldwide, “and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives,” Clark said.

Dallas UX apprentice: An ‘absolutely incredible’ opportunity

One life it’s transforming right now is Tory Bias, a 31-year-old Dallas employee who was accepted into Amazon’s UX design and research apprenticeship program. Bias graduated from college with a music degree in voice and piano, but ended up spending years in customer service jobs at places like Apple and Dyson. 

Amazon UX design and research apprentice Tory Bias [Photo: Tory Bias]

“I started at the very bottom,” he told Dallas Innovates, “and knew customer service wasn’t something I wanted to do forever. I felt like I was just a number.”

Then in 2020, the pandemic hit and Bias’ father passed away. He knew something had to change. He’d discovered UX while working at Dyson, and knew he was interested in that, so he got training in a UX bootcamp. Then he saw a LinkedIn post about Amazon’s apprenticeship program.

“I read it and thought, ‘I belong here,'” Bias said. “I interviewed with Amazon and got the job.”

Bias was assigned to Amazon’s consumer payments department, “but at the same time they’re providing education for people like me who are inspired to be a UX designer and researcher.”

As part of the program, Bias began a six-month course load at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. Studying remotely from Dallas, he’s done projects to create his own portfolio. 

As he masters UX, Bias also gets support from a mentor provided by Amazon. 

‘Learning the ropes’

“They’re making sure we’re immersed within Amazon, learning the ropes, with thorough onboarding and involvement in projects,” he told us. “My manager has made me feel very immersed in the team. I’ve been gaining knowledge on the projects they’re working on and learning more about the customers and the users we’re doing UX for.”

“By the time you graduate from the School of Visual Concepts, you’re accustomed to Amazon, so by the time you do the on-the-job training, it should be an easy experience,” he said. “The main goal is to become a full-time UX designer or researcher at the end of the program.”

Bias hopes to be an advocate for others like him who seek the same opportunities.

Amazon is breaking down barriers

“One of my main reasons for talking about this is to highlight me being a queer person and a black person, and trying to open doors for people of color and black people in general,” Bias told us. “I want to be an advocate for people who don’t know there are career opportunities like these out there.”

He believes Amazon is helping to break down barriers.

“Black people and people of color are often ostracized or kept out by gatekeeping,” he added. “We often have to take nontraditional routes to go further.”

Training for Amazon…and beyond

Where Bias goes next is his decision, Amazon says. The apprenticeship program allows employees to obtain additional certifications and skills, whether or not they end up pursuing a job with Amazon. The company says the employees “are more than welcome to pursue a career outside of the company.”

“That’s the beautiful thing about the opportunity,” Bias told us. “They stress that you’re not forced to stay at Amazon. I’m not worried about being pigeonholed into one opportunity. That means so much to me. I want to be part of that and make history by being part of the first UX apprenticeship cohort at Amazon.”

Upskilling 2025

Tory Bias is not alone. Two years ago, Amazon announced Upskilling 2025, a $700 million commitment to train 100,000 U.S. employees by 2025 to help them transition into in-demand, higher-paying jobs. Since that launch, more than 70,000 employees have taken part in one of Amazon’s nine upskilling programs.

Today’s additional investment and education benefits more than triples Amazon’s original pledge. The company plans to invest $1.2 billion in these programs and provide free skills training to 300,000 employees over the next four years—the equivalent of more than 30% of the company’s current U.S. workforce.

To see Amazon’s full roster of education and skills training programs—from Amazon Technical Academy to Machine Learning University to the Mechatronics and Robotics Apprenticeship and more—click here.

The American Upskilling Study

Why is all this education and training so important? Because it’s one of the things employees value most. The first-ever Amazon-Gallup American Upskilling Study shows how offering skills training can help companies recruit more workers, while helping the employees build skills for rewarding careers.

The analysis found that U.S. workers who completed upskilling programs over the past year have made an average income increase of 8.6%—which adds up to $8,000 more in annual earnings.

Currently, 70 percent of workers interested in upskilling say they would switch to a new job if they could receive free skills training. Young adults entering the labor market believe employer-funded upskilling is more important than paid vacations.

In Texas, the stats aren’t quite as high: 43 percent of workers here say they’d switch jobs if they were offered free skills training somewhere else. But 63 percent of Texas workers are “highly interested” in upskilling opportunities, 57 percent have actually participated in skills training in the last year, and 74 percent of Texas workers believe their quality of life has improved thanks to the training or education they’ve received.

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