Amazon Goes Open-Source With Career Development Program

Amazon Goes Open-Source With Career Development Program


Yesterday Recode’s invite-only Code Conference kicked off in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos headlined the evening session with an interview with Walt Mossberg, former Wall Street Journal technology columnist and Recode editor at large.

Somewhere between his criticism of Peter Thiel’s Gawker lawsuit and discussing his private company that’s sending rockets to space, Bezos let it slip that Amazon will share its tuition assistance program with other companies.

Juan Garcia, global leader for career advancement at Amazon, confirmed the news on Twitter:

Like @JeffBezos said, we're open-sourcing #CareerChoice - giving away free what we've learned with our peculiar #EmployeeEngagement program.

— Juan Garcia (@garciajm3D) June 1, 2016

Launched in 2012, Career Choice pre-pays 95 percent of tuition and fees for hourly associates to earn certificates and associate degrees in high-demand fields like aircraft mechanics and nursing. More than 6,000 Amazon employees have participated in Career Choice to date. Now the company is ready to share what it’s learned with Fortune 1000 companies that want to create similar programs.

“It’s an initiative we’re now ready to open source and share with others,” Garcia said in a video released yesterday.

Amazon calls Career Choice “peculiar,” noting that it only funds education in high-demand occupations as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and local colleges. It also claims that it funds education “regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.”

“The rationale is that we know a lot folks will spend their careers with us,” Garcia told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last month. “But for a lot of other associates, we know that their time at Amazon is just a stop in their personal and professional journey.”

For “Amazonians” to take advantage of Career Choice, they must be employed by Amazon for one continuous year. The company will pay up to $12,000 in tuition textbooks and associated fees over four years.

Last year Amazon began offering on-site classes at eight of its 50 fulfillment centers. For example, hourly employees at Amazon’s center in Chesterfield, VA, can take a principles of accounting class offered through a partnership with John Tyler Community College. The company recently announced it will build 25 additional Career Choice classrooms on-site at other fulfillment centers.

Full details on exactly how other companies can take advantage of Amazon’s work with Career Choice were not disclosed, but Bezos did give out his email address for those who are curious. (It’s, in case you want to drop a line.) We’ll let you know if we get a reply.

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