Front-line workers embrace company's tuition reimbursement program

Program offers $3,000 annual budget for 4-year courses of workers' choice

Front-line workers embrace company's tuition reimbursement program

Over 3,000 eligible employees in Canada have signed up to participate in Amazon’s Career Choice in 2023, representing a 59 per cent growth in participation over 2022, according to the company.

“One of the things that we've heard from employees over and over again is that skills training is important. And they want to continue their professional development in whatever role they happen to be in,” says Tammy Thieman, director or program management for Career Choice at Amazon, in talking with Canadian HR Reporter.

“And so Career Choice is the program specifically designed for our hourly population that allows them to engage in skills training at local schools, to increase their skill level so that they can actually take the next step in their career.”

Program provides tuition reimbursement

Launched in 2014, the Career Choice program provides workers up to 95 per cent of tuition and reimburses fees for book costs. It funds up to $3,000 for eligible full-time and reduced-time employees per calendar year and $1,500 for eligible part-time employees. It is available for four consecutive years, subject to a lifetime limit of $12,000.

The surge in the number of participants is nothing but a positive development, says Thieman.

“Career Choice is a cornerstone of our commitment to our frontline employees' professional growth and development. We are thrilled to see such a significant increase in participation in Canada this year, as it underscores the importance of investing in our team's education and career aspirations. We are committed to continuing the growth of this program and supporting even more employees in their professional journey.”

Overall, just under 7,000 Amazon frontline workers in Canada have taken advantage of the program, says Thieman.

In September 2023, Walmart launched in Canada an education program that has been a big success in the United States. Through the Live Better U (LBU) education program, Walmart Canada is investing $50 million over five years to send associates to top-tier schools across Canada.

HR, IT, language courses available 

One key thing that Career Choice does is offering courses for in-demand skills that they may be able to use today and in the future.

Courses in human resources, information technology (IT) and many others are available through Amazon’s education program. In 2023, Amazon also added language programming, which included English and French Canadian, to the education program, says Thieman.

“It goes back to building skills that employees can learn and leverage as we step into the future. None of us knows what the future looks like, and we know that things are developing and changing all the time. And so we're trying really hard to make sure that we're investing in the skills that have longevity.”

By offering this program to workers, Amazon is able to swerve their customers better, she says.

“One of the things that we talk about all the time is customer obsession. And in order for us to serve our customers well, we need to be investing in our employees. And so we're doing that.”

The program also allows the company to fill talent pipelines in different communities, even if they do not end up staying with Amazon after going through the program, she says.

“Even if they don't stay an employee at Amazon, I would suggest that they might become a customer for life. And so we see a really big impact for the individual, for our company and the communities in which we live and work.”

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of employers are seeking better metrics as part of their future employee training strategies, D2L previously reported, in partnership with Training Industry.

‘We're investing at every single level of leadership’

Commitment and taking a holistic approach are the keys to Career Choice’s success, says Thieman.

“One of the recipes for success around this program is that we're investing at every single level of leadership, from the very top of Amazon all the way down to the site level, where HR and general managers are engaging with employees about this program. 

“And then where we're providing the right supports, which is, schools in our network are demonstrating flexibility to serve the adult learner and providing services that make sure that they're able to complete their program…

“It's really taking a holistic view of what would make an employee successful, and investing in the right things to help them.”

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