Amazon appears to be bringing in a lot of changes lately. Already the site redesign has started to appear outside of the US, a design and development hub has been established in London, UK and  now if you visit the front page of Amazon.com,  you’ll see a special letter from Jeff Bezos himself.

In part it reads:

Today, we’re announcing our newest innovation — one we’re especially excited about — the Amazon Career Choice Program.

Many of our fulfillment center employees will choose to build their careers at Amazon. For others, a job at Amazon might be a step towards a career in another field. We want to make it easier for employees to make that choice and pursue their aspirations. 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.

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.

Like many of our innovations at Amazon, the Career Choice Program is an experiment. We’re excited about it and hope it will pay big dividends for some of our employees. This is one innovation that we hope other companies in this economy will copy.

Thanks for being a customer,

Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO

That’s quite an investment in fulfillment center staff. Not only do they have the opportunity to raise their game through education, these are specialist skills courses that can really lead the way to a totally different career path.

It’s refreshing to read from an employer, an understanding that a job can be a stepping stone and still mean committed staff members. Indeed this type of incentive is likely to see Amazon receiving applications from a lot more people.

The program is open to all Amazon full-time hourly associates in the U.S. who have been employed for three consecutive years.

In a further commitment to the cause (or gamble depending on if your glass is half-empty) the program will pay tuition and fees in advance rather than reimbursement after the completion of the course. That should get a lot more people at least starting out on these courses even if they do not finish them.

This program focuses on technical and vocation training programs and does not apply to Bachelors or Master’s degree coursework. The means that offer might not appeal to everyone but it certainly helps with practical skills and training.

What this seems to aim for is employee loyalty for a certain amount of time. Those who have not been working for Amazon for three years, might consider staying in order to take advantage of the offer.

Placing this announcement on the front page of Amazon might be a bit strange, but shoving at the bottom of the page in the “Get to know us” section wouldn’t do half as much for corporate reputation as a post up front and centre on one of the largest consumer websites in the world facing one of its biggest markets.

Image Credit: Uesakakohei