Amazon's innovative new program sets the bar for education

Amazon is setting the bar for education. Where other companies are reducing the amount reimburse or paid for tuition reimbursement, Amazon announced today that the will pay up to 95% of the cost of courses.

Amazon is setting the bar for education. While other companies are reducing the amount they are willing to spend on employee education or pay for college tuition reimbursement, Amazon announced today that the will pay up to 95% of the cost of courses.

“So, for people who've been with us as little as three years, we're offering to pre-pay 95% of the cost of courses such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields.”

For most of us in technology, especially if we are working for large mature organizations, there is some incentive to continue education in some manner. For the most part, there is an endless supply of canned online courses that serve, really, only to introduce us to a topic. Additionally, most organizations will provide some level of tuition reimbursement for college level courses.

Over the past few years the funding for these education options has shrunk significantly.

Today we need to justify every training dollar, showing management how our taking a particular course will benefit the greater organization, and more immediately our day to day work.  And, typically, the funding for college level course work, if approved, will only cover the cost of a couple of courses per year due to funding caps, pushing the time needed to complete a degree significantly to the right.

Ironically, most college degrees require that you complete in 5 years, while funding requires a 6+ year runway.

The announcement starts by stating that Amazon likes to be a pioneer, and this program puts Amazon's money where their mouth is by not mandating that the education be relevant to the employee's current position within the organization.

“...and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon,” Bezos wrote.

So, while top trends in e-learning and corporate training note an increase training budgets to deal with economic growth in specialty areas, talent shortages due to over outsourcing and an increased focus on talent management, Amazon is implementing this program because they want to make it easier for employees to pursue their aspirations.

The program is not without limitations.

"Unlike traditional tuition reimbursement programs, we exclusively fund education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics."

With so much much moaning about how the US is losing the intellectual race to other countries, here is an innovation that could help to catch us up. The announcement calls the new program an experiment, and hopes that other organizations model their training programs after the new Amazon Career Choice Program. I certainly hope Amazon succeeds and others follow.

What are your experiences with education funding at your organization?