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Tuesday, 24 July 2012 15:43

Amazon helps fund vocational education for employees


Amazon is known for shaking up the business world. Will its new plan to pick up 95% of its employees' tuition costs spread?

One thing Australian businesses - and admittedly this is a generalisation - aren't very good at is staff development.

The prevailing thinking seems to be that employees should be responsible for their own continuing education, and that if a 'skills gap' occurs then it's best to bring in someone new.

Amazon is taking an interesting half-way approach. It is leaving employees to decide what they want to study to advance their careers, but then paying 95% of their tuition costs in advance.

Naturally, there is some fine print.

To qualify for the Career Choice program, employees must have been with Amazon for at least three years.

And it only applies to courses in areas that are well paid and in high demand.

But the program is open to those who want to advance their careers with Amazon and those who want to move into a completely different field such as medical technology.

"At Amazon, we like to pioneer, we like to invent, and we're not willing to do things the normal way if we can figure out a better way," said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

"It can be difficult in this economy to have the flexibility and financial resources to teach yourself new skills.

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."

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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