Amazon Races to Reel in the Workforce

Teresa Feng, News Editor

On September 9, 2021, Amazon officially announced that they would be paying for college tuition and costs for 750,000 eligible employees. Including book fees, this plan allows for adult employees to receive additional schooling and even a degree. When asked about the reason for this, Amazon declared that they strove to provide the positive impact free education would bring for families all over the country. The plan serves to prevent student debt for employees who have additional responsibilities, such as housing and family finances. Amazon is following in the footsteps of Walmart and Target, who have each published their own college tuition and education plans for their employees. 

Amazon is currently the largest job creator in the US. To be eligible for the tuition payment, employees must have worked a minimum of 90 days. Beginning in January 2022, the program will also include high school diplomas and certificates for English as a second language for employees. Amazon has already been fairly successful in gaining new employees from the competitive dash for workers in the US workforce, bringing in 500,000 new employees from the beginning of the pandemic in March, according to CNBC. As for benefits in the pay itself, Amazon is offering bonuses for employees that sign up that are worth up to $3000, and wages starting at $17 an hour in the US and Canada. 

Walmart was the first major company to announce their plan to pay for college tuition and books. This was open to both their part time and full time associates. The goal of their actions was to allow more of their employees to be able to pursue further education as a working adult. Finding the time and finances to pay for a degree is already difficult, and even more so with families to support at the same time. According to USA today, “approximately 1.5 million Walmart and Sam’s Club employees ‘can earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of education debt.’” Since many associates at Walmart carry additional responsibilities such as caring for children and family, education debt is a heavy burden that often prevents individuals from being able to obtain degrees, whether it is to chase their passions, or achieve a means of a greater salary. Debt, combined with other financial concerns such as rent and medical fees, can prevent further opportunities.Additionally, Walmart also has a “Live Better U” program, which was created to provide access to programs and methods of obtaining a degree, or additional training or education that would best benefit the employee. They have now cancelled the $1 a day fee that employees were previously required to pay for participation in the Live Better U program. 

Target soon followed Walmart’s lead by offering their part time and full time employees with paying for their college education. This plan was worked out with “250 business-aligned programs from more than 40 schools, colleges and universities.” By working with these schools, Target has been able to provide specific programs for their employees in a way where they do not have to pay for tuition or additional education out of pocket, thus preventing student debt for adults with families who wish to continue their schooling. 

 

This sudden surge in work benefits is not without cause. Due to COVID-19, many employees have not returned to work, which has raised competition for workers in the US workforce. Many workplaces have been offering higher pay and additional benefits for the same reason. Part of the reason why employees are reluctant to return was due to the government paying a $300 a week stipend for the unemployed. Individuals looking for jobs have also begun to search for jobs that suit themselves more, and hold benefits and qualities that they are looking for. According to AP News, “In March, U.S. job openings rose 8% to a record 8.1 million, but overall hiring rose less than 4%, according to government data.” As a result, workers are currently in very high demand, which has caused major companies like Target, Walmart, and Amazon to race to offer the most tempting benefits in order to obtain a portion of the US workforce.