Amazon offers tuition assistance to help warehouse employees advance careers

Amazon has announced a new programme that will cover the cost of outside courses completed by employees, in a bid to encourage career development amongst hourly-paid workers.

With the Amazon Career Choice Program, the online retailer will pay for 95 per cent of the cost of courses like aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and more, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said.

"The program is unusual. 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, and we fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon," Bezos wrote.

The programme is open to employees who have been with Amazon at least three years and Amazon will pre-pay the cost of the selected courses - for a maximum of $2,000 (£1,290) per year for four years, or $8000 (£5,150) in total. Online classes are eligible for the programme.

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

Bezos touted the safety of Amazon's fulfillment centres. "Our work on safety practices has been so effective that it's statistically safer to work in an Amazon fulfillment center than in a traditional department store," he wrote.

Last year, however, an expose on one of the company's US shipping facilities revealed that employees were required to work in warehouses without air conditioning during the hot summer months. Temperatures there approached 40 degrees Celsius at times and Amazon reportedly had paramedics on call. Amazon later invested in air conditioning for the warehouse.

Amazon recently announced plans to open a London office near Old Street's 'Silicon Roundabout' tech hub. The company's UK corporate headquarters is currently in Slough, while it has fulfilment centres - warehouses in old money - across the UK including facilities in Doncaster, Peterborough, Hemel Hempstead and Swansea.

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