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Amazon Offers To Help Train Workers For Other Jobs

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the living-the-dream-at-clown-school dept.

Businesses 148

itwbennett writes "Amazon, which has come under attack for harsh warehouse working conditions, on Monday announced a new training benefit program for fulfillment center employees. The program will cover 95% of the cost of vocational training for jobs that Amazon determined to be in high demand and that pay relatively well, including aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technology, medical laboratory science and nursing." Two limitations of note: the maximum Amazon will contribute is $2,000/year for four years, and the employees need to have worked full-time for three consecutive years before they can take advantage of the program.

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astounding generosity (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40759997)

A whole $2000/yr, how is amazon to afford it? Especially to all those bloodsucking employees who have only been around for 3 years.

Is that figure off by a factor of 10 or what?

Re:astounding generosity (2)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#40760115)

Hey, it may be a shit sandwich, but at least it's a sandwich, which is more than they got before...

Re:astounding generosity (2)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#40760825)

and when it comes time to get a raise, they can hold this over your head.
Id rather take a 2k/yr raise than this BS.

Re:astounding generosity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760229)

The first thing that popped into my mind was the apartment complex where I used to live that sold apartments by telling people they could get $4,000 if they became first time home buyers when they left. They didn't mention the little detail (though it was on the pamphlet) of how you had to get a mortgage through the specific provider for whom they made the deal. It was an advertisement for a mortgage company and they used it to entice you to rent with them.

This deal doesn't sound like that, but working the same job for 7 years for pay plus an extra $8,000 (vested over 4 years starting at the end of year 3) sounds terrible. This should only be used by those people who find themselves "trapped" there anyway at the end of three years. And I hope they were saving during that time, because that $2,000/yr won't go far.

Re:astounding generosity (5, Informative)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 2 years ago | (#40760487)

For some community college programmes that might be reasonable.$1=20092

Lists aviation maintenance technology as a total cost of 3200 dollars including tuition and tools. Which presumably you could do in 1 year straight out of school, or in 2 or 3 if you're working at amazon, but hey, it's better than minimum wage at the end of it, and if you can't get student loans, or don't want to have them or whatever it's a better than nothing option.

You have to consider what 2000 dollars is relative to their existing pay. Amazon claims their fulfillment centres pay '30% more than a retail job', which are, apparently ( 25k. So an employee making ~ 32k is getting offered 2k (tax free? not sure how that's like in the US), so 6% of your pay for a chance to get out of it. And at 32k you can at least live, not live well, but live, and not be in debt at the end of it. It's not spectacular, but it's still a lot of money.

Re:astounding generosity (0)

superdana (1211758) | about 2 years ago | (#40761399)

offered 2k (tax free? not sure how that's like in the US)

The devil's in the details of course but generally speaking, scholarships are tax-free.

Re:astounding generosity (1)

jpapon (1877296) | about 2 years ago | (#40761945)

Someone making 30k a year is only paying 15% anyways.

Of course they don't have to keep you employed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760003)

Really, nothing stopping them from temp employees being tossed.

Re:Of course they don't have to keep you employed (0)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40760055)

If experience isn't benefit, what's stopping that from happening anyway?

Re:Of course they don't have to keep you employed (2)

TheLink (130905) | about 2 years ago | (#40760299)

Not much except potential backlash from human customers. Amazon still depends on very many human customers. So they have to boil the frog slowly and carefully.

They're not far from being able to get rid of most human workers in their warehouses: []

You don't need that much brains to do this: []
So a more fancy pick-n-place robot could replace the human in that job.

Yikes... (4, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40760005)

Three full years in an warehouse? From the stories, that sounds like a death sentence.

Re:Yikes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760053)

Try seven to get the full benefit.

Re:Yikes... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760181)

What do you expect Amazon to do? Give a free full ride to anyone who asks? In order to stay in business, amazon must turn a profit, and in order to do that, it must maintain a level of productive throughput at an affordable price.

Sure, the work sucks, but it is the work that customers are willing to pay for. Sure, it takes three years before the education options become available, but were it not for this offer, people who can't find any better-paying work would only have lifelong debt as their alternative.

The only thing forcing Amazon to do this at all is public sentiment. If you don't think it is enough, feel free to tell Amazon that as you boycott them.

Re:Yikes... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760251)

I think what most people would "expect Amazon to do" would be to act a bit more humane, even if the prices were slightly higher (even by US$5 or $10 for inexpensive items). I would recommend everyone considering responding similar to how you have to read this story by a reporter who worked there to find out what the working conditions on a daily basis were actually like: []

I hope that after reading the story, you too would agree that less gruelling working conditions would be more ideal overall even if it meant slightly higher prices. I surely can't be the only one who feels comfortable paying a bit more for something knowing that the people getting my order together aren't being treated like dogshit.

Re:Yikes... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760437)

If Amazon improves working conditions and/or pays more, and must charge more to cover the costs, then competitors like walmart, sears, target, etc can suddenly start undercutting Amazon in price. Of course, they will do so by having the same low-waged working situation that Amazon does now.

In order to compete against them despite the higher prices, Amazon will basically have to convince droves of potential customers to buy humanitarianism along with their products. Do you think they can pull that off?

Maybe a few noble souls are like you, and don't mind paying more. The majority of people are too ignorant to know the difference, or too apathetic to care, and just buy cheap.

If you can figure out how to make the masses care (and act), you could accomplish a whole lot more than the improving of working conditions at Amazon.

Re:Yikes... (3, Insightful)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 2 years ago | (#40760577)

Philosophy doesn't work on the pocketbook over the whole economy. People buy the cheapest available equivalent product, period. I always chuckle when I see "buy local" signs because it is such a naive idea that is completely detached from reality. How do I know that when buying local that I'm really creating any benefit? I find it silly to adjust my spending based on something that is not rooted in obvious economic value. If you want better treatment for workers there are two possibilities: unions or government regulation. The government union/regulation introduces the economic incentive to act in the interests of the workers.

Re:Yikes... (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#40760907)

I will agree with your comment that government involvement, however imperfect, is probably needed. A free market requires full information and it is almost impossible for people to understand how things are produced without somebody outside the companies following up, checking and ensuring that information gets from the production to the consumer. Unfortunately, the current situation is that the people in government are of the "government is for the companies" or "government doesn't work" persuasion and are setting out to prove it. Food labelling means that something which is labelled as "strawberry flavour yoghurt" can have nothing to do with strawberries. At one point the US government was trying to make it impossible to label meat as growth hormone free. For now at least you need to do something yourself. If nothing else so that some of the small, traditional or careful producers continue to exist when / if your government wakes up. Look at how fat most Americans are; understand most nations are catching up. That is, at least partly, the effect of eating crap. Eat better food and it will be better for you.

[...] People buy the cheapest available equivalent product, period. I always chuckle when I see "buy local" signs because it is such a naive idea that is completely detached from reality. How do I know that when buying local that I'm really creating any benefit? I find it silly to adjust my spending based on something that is not rooted in obvious economic value.[...]

No; you buy the cheapest available product; I buy local sometimes. Most importantly, I try to buy conciously most of the stuff that I buy. Learn about the products where you can. How do you know you are creating benefit? Go and visit the farm. Seriously. Almost any small producer will be happy to show you around. They will explain many things. Small farms in many countries often have accommodation ("agrotourism") as a side line. Spend a couple of days staying there, seeing what they do. When you know your farmer personally you will be much more likely to trust him.

For some things local just isn't relevant. When you buy products with the real Fair Trade logo [] then you can be pretty sure it's better than the alternative. Partly this is better for the farmers. Also the certification includes production standards which are likely better for you. Just beware that there are some fake Fair Trade style groups (the "Rainforest Alliance" and "Fair Trade USA" and so on) which you should only buy when there is no alternative.

How about for example toys? Everybody keeps complaining about how terrible "Chinese" plastic toys are. Then they complain when there is a recall with lead paint. Tell your friends and especially family that you don't accept cheap plastic toys. Buy Lego. They have completely different levels of product safety. The quality is also better; you will still find your kid playing with stuff five years later where normal toys seem to last about a week.

Basically, what I'm saying: there are economic factors you don't see. Products which make you sick cost you money, it's just that you don't directly see the link. Products which pay their workers more mean your company gets more business; again, this is hard to see but it's a real "economic" factor. "Local" is a useful way to guess that something has them. Specific producers with a brand, a reputation and an interest in quality are another way. Specific labels are yet another way. Try to look not just at the price but the broader economic picture. Think about what hidden costs to you are included in any product and choose the best product.

Re:Yikes... (3, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#40762011)

I always chuckle when I see "buy local" signs because it is such a naive idea that is completely detached from reality. How do I know that when buying local that I'm really creating any benefit?

Seems like a cynical view to me, and almost certainly incorrect. I often buy local if I can, for various definitions of local.

I tend to buy local (same county) for bread, flour, beer (often), cider (occasionally--I don't drink much) and a few other things where possible. The products are frequently fresher/better/more unique and interesting first, and secondly, I happen to like living somewhere where not everything is homogonised into a few very large national brands.

I buy fruit and veg local if possible, frmo my home country next and wider Europe next. I try to avoid buying much from further afield. The benefits are that actually, if you restrict yourself to seasonal stuff it tends to be better and it just seems wasteful to eat asparagus air-freighted from Peru.

It means I also have a smaller environmental impact and support local and regional businesses.

I also avoid Tesco and Sainsbury's because they're evil, and I let the presence of independent shops and other supermarkets influence my decision on where to move house to.

There's not point in complaining about such things going bad if one isn't prepared to do something about it.

If you don't act on them, then principles are merely fond notions.

Re:Yikes... (1)

Kalriath (849904) | about 2 years ago | (#40761153)

Then you have to contend with people for whom Amazon would become ridiculously expensive if they upped the prices any more. We already pay $13USD shipping on a fucking book thank-you-very-much, no they damn well may not raise prices.

Re:Yikes... (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#40762593)

$13USD shipping

Then select a cheaper shipping option.

Re:Yikes... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#40760451)

I think what most people would "expect Amazon to do" would be to act a bit more humane,

Huh? It would break a too high number of rules [] (try 144, 211, 261, 284, 285 and numerous unlisted others).

Re:Yikes... (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 2 years ago | (#40760901)

Thanks for posting this. I had no idea what was going on as I had a sterile automated Amazon fantasy land in my head. I'm truly appalled at this and it makes me want to stop buying anything. This makes me sick.

Re:Yikes... (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 2 years ago | (#40760441)

What I expect them to do is this - have an education benefit for their employees, or not, it's their business, but before going off tooting about how great it is, maybe look at just how far that education benefit actually goes in the current education market, and what other companies who have education benefits are doing.

$2k per year? If that was per semester, I'd still expect them to avoid making a big announcement to the press.

Re:Yikes... (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | about 2 years ago | (#40760611)

They are removing a portion of the burden from government which is the point of all of this. Normally, the government would use a Pell grant to pay for a vocational training program. This slices a big portion off of the (sorry, our) government's expense in those cases. They don't mention time off for the training do they? This is a blatant attempt to head off government regulation. The Healthcare bill has set a compulsion precedent that is probably going to address education soon. Notice, Obama just made a move to allow bankruptcies for private sector education loans (which total 10% of debt, the government ed loans--90%--are non-voidable).

Re:Yikes... (3, Insightful)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 years ago | (#40760695)

Bush took away the ability for student loans to be discharged during bankruptcy in 2005, and that move has been criticized heavily since then. Discharging student loan debt isn't some grand new concept - it's going back to the way things were before some idiot fucked it up.

Re:Yikes... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760869)

Federal student loan debt was almost never dischargeable. The 2005 change moved _private_ loans into the non-dischargeable category. I believe that's right around the same time that the private sector picked up on student loans.

Re:Yikes... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#40760721)

What do you expect Amazon to do?

Anything and everything it can get away with. It's a corporation, it has no capability for conscience or empathy.

Give a free full ride to anyone who asks?

Sure, why not? That has worked perfectly fine wherever it has been tried, with the Nordic welfare countries being perhaps the most triumphant example. It turns out that in a reasonably healthy culture the slackers will ultimately consume little (lacking the ambition for truly epic leeching schemes) so those who use the opportunity of free education to reach for the stars more than make up for them.

Re:Yikes... (3, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#40761823)

What do you expect Amazon to do? Give a free full ride to anyone who asks?

But that's the thing, their temps didn't ask for a full ride, nor did they ask for extra training. They only asked for the dock doors to be opened so they get could get some ventilation in.

So not only, Amazon didn't respond to the issue at hand, the fact that their people are getting heat strokes. They're not even addressing the right people. It's not their "full-time employees" that are getting heat strokes, it's mostly their temporary employees that are getting them because it's their temps that are the most vulnerable in the company.

And not only, are they not addressing the main complaint that managers are routinely bullying their employees during the height of their heat strokes to sign papers saying that the root cause of their heat strokes are not work-related, but now they're trying to regurgitate those same manufactured statistics back to the public -- in the form of even vaguer comparisons -- as if they had not even read the original complaints against them.

What the hell are their PR people doing? Are they so out of touch? There are a thousand ways the company could have responded better to these criticisms.

Re:Yikes... (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 2 years ago | (#40762419)

What do you expect Amazon to do? Give a free full ride to anyone who asks? In order to stay in business, amazon must turn a profit, and in order to do that, it must maintain a level of productive throughput at an affordable price.

Yes. So what Amazon should do is to lobby for a law that regulates this type of work. If everyone who does retail has to treat their packbots in the same way, there is no advantage in mistreating them, and the race to the bottom is stopped. Competition can then move to something else.

That's a no-brainer, really. That is the way it works in civilized countries. This, however, is what happens in uncivilized countries. []

Re:Yikes... (2, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#40762617)

Sure, the work sucks, but it is the work that customers are willing to pay for.

Probably not. If Amazon is like most companies, if you doubled the money spent on all hourly workers (either doubling wages, or spending money on improved working conditions, or hiring more workers, etc) involved in the product, it would probably make a difference of maybe $0.20 per item (I can't provide exact estimates here since Amazon refuses to tell anyone how many workers they have, but that's not an unreasonable guess). The effects of this would probably amount to each item being on average $0.10 more expensive, while EPS might be down $0.01 to account for the other $0.10.

The real story is this: It's possible to make decent money while paying and treating your work force well, and many companies do just that. It's possible to make more money while paying your work force peanuts and treating them like crap. Wall St and upper management don't care about whether they're people end up sick or injured or dead because of poor working conditions so long as (a) there are a bunch of desperate unemployed people to hire, and (b) the cost of doing something to improve things is greater than the cost of the lawsuits, fines, and workers comp premium changes. The difference between the profitability of good guys versus bad guys is built on the backs of lives destroyed. Could you sleep at night knowing you made lots of money by inflicting human suffering on other people?

Re:Yikes... (0)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#40760161)

6 months would have been more fair; generous, even.

3 years is absurd!

Re:Yikes... (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#40760839)

erm After 3 months you would consider paying your employees to learn skills needed to leave your service?

At this point you wouldn't even have covered the cost of training let alone the cost of hiring new employees, and you're already ensuring that they will have a very short tenure with you.

Reasonable and generous? Hell I've never heard of someone being paid to learn something unrelated to their current career by their current employer.

NYT: Self-Congratulatory Move by Amazon? (2, Insightful)

theodp (442580) | about 2 years ago | (#40760009)

An Amazon Education [] : "Sucharita Mulpuru, the retail analyst for Forrester Research, was unimpressed. "It seemed self-congratulatory," she said in an interview. "Most companies, when they treat their workers well, that's just what they do. They don't say, "This is a reason you should do business with us.'"

Re:NYT: Self-Congratulatory Move by Amazon? (1)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#40760397)

I guess that analyst's check still needs to clear, unlike another... []

Wow! $2g/year! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760059)

I can almost pay for the gasoline needed to get to work! Thanks Amazon! Fuck the Unions!

Re:Wow! $2g/year! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760083)

god damn unions always fighting for a living wage n shit, buncha assholes!

Re:Wow! $2g/year! (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | about 2 years ago | (#40760327)

Living wage my ass. Union shovel/broom-jockeys in my neck of the woods make twice what any other entry-level position in the area pays and they get benefits on top of that.

Re:Wow! $2g/year! (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 years ago | (#40760581)

When you start with UPS as a warehouse worker you make less than minimum wage after initiation and dues for the first few years. Thanks for looking out for me Teamsters

$2000/year vs 95% of all fees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760099)

because 2000 really covers 95% of fees for ANY education...

This just discourages hiring full-time workers (5, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 2 years ago | (#40760157)

I imagine we'll see more contract, part-time employees and a rash of mysterious sackable offences from employees at 2 years and 364 days.

Not funny at all. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760775)

Why is this modded funny? This isn't funny. I have been laid off the day before a raise or benefit increase multiple times in the last decade.

When the corporate policy says get X piece of paper and you will receive a 20% raise on your next review, be prepared to find yourself out of a job the day before that review. It happened to me, it will happen to you.

Re:Not funny at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761045)

It's happened to me at 3 jobs in the last 5 years, and I've seen it happen to others at many (if not all) corporations I've worked for in the last 18 years,

The companies offer a new 'Golden Perk' and then fires everyone elligible or they invent ways to make people inelligible (a non-existent or infrequently offered training program is a favorite). They implement arbitrary requirements that literally can't be met. PAYING benefits doesn't appear profitable to corporations, but OFFERING them attracts talent, so naturally they adopt the policy of offering benefits, circumventing any paths that lead to delivering them.

3-year requirement? Amazon probably doesn't have a single non-executive employee that's been there 3 years.

Re:This just discourages hiring full-time workers (3, Insightful)

assertation (1255714) | about 2 years ago | (#40762435)

That is probably already the case.

Hiring people for 39 hours instead of 40 hours a week is the oldest trick in the book for avoiding health coverage costs.

Hiring temporary/contract people is also fairly standard for shitty working conditions. Such people tend not to have the resources to fight back.

Sounds like lowes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760177)

They just staff the place with tons and tons of 'part-time' workers.

Who were hired and told it was fulltime and then the hours slip down. And ohhh now you don't get full benefits and all that. Complain, ask for more hours? try to get more hours somehow? overtime? ohhhhhhh... you are so fired. For some minor complaint we documented months ago just in case of this.

Didnt happen to me directly. But i saw it happen to alot of employees.

Seems like a very corporate thing to do.
Amazon knows they can pull the same thing. While making noise that they care.

Oh Wow! (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 2 years ago | (#40760187)

[SARCASM]Where can I sign up[/SARCASM]

Re:Oh Wow! (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#40760249)

[SARCASM]Where can I sign up[/SARCASM]

Try this [] first, you may earn your extra $2000/year easier and earlier.

I work here (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760201)

I was a temp, got converted, then hired into IT. Luckily there was a career path I was interested in... Due to what the company is and does, there just isn't much room for upward mobility or different career paths. They listened to the warehouse workers and gave them this option, which everyone loves. You put in your time and do your job, and after three years you can do what you want, and Amazon will pay for it.

Re:I work here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761123)

"...and Amazon will pay for it"

Even at the maximum, $8000 towards a degree from a technical/vocational school which will cost $35,000. That's not a benefit, that's an obligation. I'd prefer benefits that don't cost $27,000 out-of-pocket (plus interest if you take a loan).

Re:I work here (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#40762493)

Go to school in California - a full load (15 credits) at a community college for in state residents is about $1400/yr plus student fees (maybe a couple hundred). You'd be out book costs and some exceptional class fees.

Getting ready for total automation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760205)

I'm speechless.

Scam (0, Troll)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#40760215)

and a really, really nasty one. Take a look at the 'in demand' jobs. Aircraft Mechanic? CAD? What is this, 1980?

It's a diploma mill. Amazon sends their employees to a diploma mill, gets a kick back from the mill, some of their workers pay for training they should've got on the job, and gets a nice tax break to boot, so the whole thing's paid for by the taxpayer.

The worst thing is the employee comes out of the mill with a tonne of debt and no marketable skills. And they worked really hard to do it too. This is awful. It's taking advantage of people's hopes and dreams while grinding them to dust. It is literally the most awful thing I've ever seen a company do outside of Bhopal.

There so much awful here I just don't know what to say. I didn't know people could be this bad...

Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760407)

That's a fair description of most of the for profit schools out there. Check out their advertising -- it's nonstop on local daytime TV (think Springer and Judge Judy and similarly insulting crap). These places largely exist for the purpose of separating the poor, ignorant, and frequently desperate from the Pell Grants (and sometimes their Stafford guaranteed student loan checks). If there is a God, I'm sure she's reserving a special circle of hell for the people who run these scams. I'd have more respect for a crack dealer or even a Congressman.

Re:Scam (1, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#40760447)

True, but what I find so terrible about this situation is that there isn't one single facet that doesn't benefit Amazon to the detriment of their employee and society. Amazon gets tax breaks, kick backs and profits from the school, and the employee gets debt, an increased workload and made to pay for their own job training. Some of these programs are even tailored to skills Amazon happens to need. You are quite literally paying them to be taught how to work their systems. Like I said, this is the most awful thing I've seen come out of the free market besides callous loses of life.

Re:Scam (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#40760465)

It's a diploma mill. Amazon sends their employees to a diploma mill, gets a kick back from the mill, some of their workers pay for training they should've got on the job, and gets a nice tax break to boot, so the whole thing's paid for by the taxpayer.

You know... it's sounds line a good business proposition (successful corporations are always experts in externalizing the costs - otherwise how are they going to meet their legal obligations and make money for the stakeholders?)

and people goto full time colleges and come out th (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40760481)

and people goto full time colleges and come out the same way lot's of debt and big skills gaps.

We need a middle of the road system building on the training system and add apprenticeships to it. College is to far to the theory side of things and is loaded with stuff from the past and lots of filler.

Re:and people goto full time colleges and come out (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 2 years ago | (#40760607)

Not really. Coming out of a proper college they come out better. They have new skills and abilities. Ones that are useful outside of their current employers work environment. What these mills do is one of two things: a) teach a useless skill or b) teach a highly, highly specialized skill only relevant to the current employer.

I'm not going to argue the intangible benefits to society of traditional College because I think the phrase 'intangible benefits' is shorthand for 'I'm too lazy to quantify the benefits so I'll just call them intangible".

Apprenticeships look good in theory, but that assumes we need that many full time workers. Automation and productivity increases mean we need less full time workers, not more. The filler will keeps students out of the work force, and properly applied give them better baseline thinking skills. They then contribute more to society as a whole (if only by virtue of being better citizens). Also, it's too easy for apprenticeships to devolve into free, borderline slave, labor. We're already seeing this with unpaid interns being made to do productive work.

Re:and people goto full time colleges and come out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40762731)

You apparently havent' interviewed the ignorant fools our "liberal arts" schools have been churning through. I see more motivation to work and desire to learn from University of Pheonix students than from Division I schools. Quality of the education appears to only be affected by the individual, not the schools.

Re:Scam (2)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 2 years ago | (#40760519)

Amazon sells 'how to' books doesn't it?


Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760565)

HEY! Some of us work at diploma mills! Trickle.. uh.. LATERALLY!!! Don't ruin it!

Perpetuating the student loan debacle (1)

howdoiturnthison (1936350) | about 2 years ago | (#40760631)

The diploma mill issue is a good point. It's also important to note that besides kickbacks, trade schools with shady accreditation often pressure their reps to find new applicants. Also, less reputable schools often milk the federal student loan program for what it's worth by farming applicants and then saddling them with huge loans through high-pressure tactics (don't read, just sign it!). Hey, why should the school care if the student defaults? They're getting the gov't dough up front. Amazon might think they're going to get PR kudos, but in reality they're just compounding loan fraud, high default rates, disillusioned unemployed persons, and an already craptastic consumer economy. Who really loses? The hardworking student at a reputable institution who needs a federal loan and has the means and intent to pay it off. Students such as these will get shafted if/when Congress cuts down student loan programs because of the systemic problems cited.

Re:Scam (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760705)

"some of their workers pay for training they should've got on the job"

Yeah, because aircraft mechanic is an Amazon job .

Re:Scam (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#40760769)

and a really, really nasty one. Take a look at the 'in demand' jobs. Aircraft Mechanic? CAD? What is this, 1980?

Actually, those jobs may very well be in demand - aircraft mechanics (remember, Amazon is headquartered in Washington, home of a rather well-known aircraft manufacturer).

And a good A&P will never be out of work - if you're not working on big iron, there's tons of jets or even little single engine pistons going around.

These are trade jobs - and for a lot of university bound students, they may be better off doing a trade than getting a university degree and debt. Depending on the trade, you can make quite a bit of money at it as well.

Considering a warehouse fulfillment job is a no/low-skill job, being able to get trade education is extremely valuable. I'm sure Amazon would allow you to learn to be an electrician, plumber, as well.

Re:Scam (2)

bitingduck (810730) | about 2 years ago | (#40761535)

These are trade jobs - and for a lot of university bound students, they may be better off doing a trade than getting a university degree and debt. Depending on the trade, you can make quite a bit of money at it as well.

Considering a warehouse fulfillment job is a no/low-skill job, being able to get trade education is extremely valuable. I'm sure Amazon would allow you to learn to be an electrician, plumber, as well.

And many of those trade jobs are hard to offshore. Electrician can be a pretty decent job, and it's always hard to get good machinists and tool makers.

Re:Scam (1)

deadweight (681827) | about 2 years ago | (#40762725)

The biggest problem I see is that a good A&P can make WAY more as a car mechanic combined with the ever-falling number of aircraft owners with any money left over to pay them. This is NOT a career with much of a future IMHO. Meanwhile the airlines have discovered the joys of outsourcing/off-shoring all the work they can.

Re:Scam (5, Informative)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | about 2 years ago | (#40760985)

Did you even read the article?

It's not a diploma mill. Amazon is funding tuition for any accredited school, as long as the coursework is in the list of in-demand fields. There aren't kickbacks (Although if there were, so what? It would just mean it's not as generous, not that it's a scam.).

Amazon is also willing to pay for 95% of the cost, up to their annual limit. At a community college, that will generally cover everything. There is no saddling anyone with ridiculous debt.

This is a genuinely good program. There is no scam or any taking advantage of anyone. How did you even invent this in your imagination?

Re:Scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761239)

"...any accredited school." Wrong.

Accredited vocational/technical school or Associates Degree program. That basically reads ITT/PhoenixU. They typically don't offer classes in "high-demand jobs like Aircraft Mechanics, Engineering, CAD..." at a community college. Those seem like marketing words straight from diploma mill advertisements.

Re:Scam (1)

quetwo (1203948) | about 2 years ago | (#40762735)

Both community colleges in my area offer all three -- "Aircraft Mechanics, Engineering, CAD". Sure, the engineering isn't a 4-year degree, so you won't be eligible for a P.E., but it is the requirement for a lot of positions out there.

So, in comparison (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#40760221)

How well or poorly does NewEgg treat its warehouse workers? How about Overstock, or, or any of the other comparable online retailers?

And really, while people here will complain about Amazon's treatment of its workers - if they have the lowest price, will you truly not buy from them because of it? Or will you just dodge the question and say " always beats them on price anyway, so I shop there"?

Re:So, in comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761009)

Let's be honest... many of us can't afford to buy from more expensive places to try to make a point. We all saw how that worked with Walmart too.

I'd like amazon to do business in a normal, humane way. I'm even confident they could stay extremely competitive. But being realistic, it needs to happen some other way.

Re:So, in comparison (1)

assertation (1255714) | about 2 years ago | (#40762453)

Two wrongs don't make a right,

It is enough that any company being shitty to people is brought to light - even if the all aren't

People buying by price is natural and is not the problem,

Bezos who is in the headlines every few months contemplating doing rich man stunts can afford to take a LITTLE bit of his profits to treat his workers like decent people AND keep Amazon's prices competitive.

That does not compute. (3, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40760239)

"The program will cover 95% of the cost"
"the maximum Amazon will contribute is $2,000/year for four years"

2,000 $/yr * 4 yr = .95 X
X = $8421

So apparently you can become a trained aircraft mechanic for not much more than $8,000. Which is about 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of a common Bachelor's degree.

Yeah, either the summary dropped a zero somewhere, aircraft mechanics are trained far less than you would think, or that 95% figure is *way* off.

Re:That does not compute. (3, Interesting)

ComfortablyAmbiguous (1740854) | about 2 years ago | (#40760329)

Not to encourage article reading, but they cover 95% of the cost of tuition, up to a maximum of $2000 dollars a year. So if your tuition is $1000 per year ( yea, yea, I know, ridiculously low) they would reimburse you $950. If your tuition is $10,000 a year, you get $2000. What Amazon is willing to pay has nothing to do with what it actually costs. All of which reinforces the fact that this is more of a PR move than a real, viable help with a serious education. There are a number of low-end jobs (yes, even McDonald's) that offer tuition assistance to some degree or the other. This isn't looking like an especially fine deal.

Re:That does not compute. (4, Informative)

colinnwn (677715) | about 2 years ago | (#40760335)

An Airframe & Powerplant training program that gets you eligible to take the FAA license test takes just under 2 years, and costs between $8,000 for community college programs, up to $30,000 for private schools.

Re:That does not compute. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760379)

Not quite like that. When you graduate from a college aircraft mechanic program, you're essentially an apprentice. Next you must pass the government exams /plus/ have a set amount of time working at the job for a qualified employer to acquire the various staged levels of the actual licensed trade.

(disclaimer, I did this in Canada, which is similar but not identical to the Yank system, and I did it decades ago. And yup, it was a diploma mill scam then too. Waay too many graduates for the very few jobs available. Year after year.)

Re:That does not compute. (0)

superdana (1211758) | about 2 years ago | (#40761505)

In the US, if the school is certificate under Part 147 rules, you don't need to do an apprenticeship.

Re:That does not compute. (1)

sangreal66 (740295) | about 2 years ago | (#40760485)

Well, it isn't for Bachelor degrees. It specifically says it is for "technical and vocational certifications or associate's degrees"

Re:That does not compute. (1, Informative)

superdana (1211758) | about 2 years ago | (#40761481)

You can become a fully qualified, FAA-certified airframe or powerplant tech with a two-year degree from most community colleges, as long as the school is certified under FAR Part 147. I know people like to look down their noses at community colleges but these graduates really are qualified, and they have to pass the same FAA exams as every other mechanic.

Noticed Between the Lines (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#40760423)

"You should buy stuff from us instead of WalMart because we treat our employees about 50% better than they do."

separate matter: the folks here who are saying that working three years in a warehouse is a death sentence should get out and meet some real people, and try a bit harder to not be entitled pricks. One caveat: if you do meet a real warehouse worker (or dock worker, or other transportation/inventory logistics person), watch out for your teeth.

Here's another angle: people who have the self-discipline to work in a tough job like that for at least three years without quitting and going home to live in their parents' basement stand a good chance at managing the demands of the work/school balance and will likely complete their coursework.

Re:Noticed Between the Lines (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#40760545)

Not a warehouse, an AMAZON warehouse. Certainly warehousing is an honorable profession, but by some accounts working in an Amazon warehouse is a tough job made awful. I suspect one of those warehouse or dock workers would take a particularly dim view of Amazon's reported extensive use of temp agencies.

Re:Noticed Between the Lines (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#40761089)

As the guy who said it originally, someone who worked in a warehouse, and someone who is surrounded by people that work in warehouses all day, that's precisely what I was getting at. It was about Amazon's working conditions, not a slight against anyone based on their job description.

I'm not worried about anyone punching me in the mouth, or some random slashdotter getting all indignant about it, but it was worth clarifying. Thanks.

Re:Noticed Between the Lines (1)

Noxal (816780) | about 2 years ago | (#40760701)

"Here's another angle: people who have the self-discipline to work in a tough job like that for at least three years without quitting and going home to live in their parents' basement stand a good chance at managing the demands of the work/school balance and will likely complete their coursework."

As a student that's been working full time in a warehouse for over three years and recently moved OUT of his parents' basement, it's comforting to hear somebody say that!

Re:Noticed Between the Lines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760743)

i've worked in a few warehouses in my day: a designer clothes brand, a furniture importer and barnes and noble distribution center.

the barnes and noble one was by FAR the worst. it wasn't "pick and pack" or "unload trucks fast" which is not that hard and breaks up the monotony of the day between shipments...barnes and noble was just standing next to a very loud conveyor belt that had an endless stream of book orders on it which i just had to pick up scan and throw in a bin, for 8 hours with a lunch break if you're lucky but sometimes they would get "mixed up" and leave a team of guys working all day, by accident of course, and since most of the dudes were mexicans who didn't speak english of course they really had no clue what was going on and couldn't say anything. and yes i quit that job, you're damn right. it paid minimum wage and was absolutely grueling compared to basically any other minimum wage job. if amazon is anything like barnes and noble then yes it's fucking nightmare.

Re:Noticed Between the Lines (2)

assertation (1255714) | about 2 years ago | (#40762473)

Great points, but it sounds like you are the one with the attitude problem.

I've seen a number of news articles about the lousy working conditions at Amazon over the years so I tend to think that those conditions are real and really bad, not an exagerration of an overpriveleged bacon eating basement living libertarian IT worker.

Given that it is likely conditions at Amazon are that bad, your anger should be directed at Amazon, not people commentators on Slashdot...........but that wouldn't be as easy.

Only $2k? (3, Informative)

fragMasterFlash (989911) | about 2 years ago | (#40760455)

US businesses can deduct up to $5250 per employee per year in schedule C federal income tax filings for tuition reimbursement. I guess Amazon would rather pay taxes than help employees realize their full potential.

Re:Only $2k? (0)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#40760561)

Well... they're spending less in taxes than they would if they deducted that much tuition. It's more likely they'd just rather have more money.

Re:Only $2k? (3, Insightful)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 2 years ago | (#40760719)

Er, the tax rate is less than 100%. So it is always better to pay tax, than to give away money. In this, case by keep the rest of the money, $3250, they pay a tax of 15% on it, which means they get to keep a lot it.

harsh warehouse working conditions (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#40760477)

sorry, I had been a box monkey for most of my 20's, the work is mindless, dirty, hotter than hell during summer, cold as shit during winter and requires long hours of physical activity and standing on your feet all while getting meh pay...

and yet whenever you see an amazon warehouse, they have padded mats to stand on, roller tracks, and fairly new equipment and the place is pretty organized and clean... I only had one warehouse job during that time and I considered it pretty cushy ... though a honest days work.

harsh is trodding a 1,100 lb palette of car batteries 50 yards in 112 degree heat on a palette jack with a lumpy wheel that liked to drag, but I did it for 3 years to keep the rent paid while in school. I would love to see what is harsh is in a state of the art warehouse that's not ran by two hillbilly brothers and only 1 forklift in the building that's busted half the time and a leaky roof.

yea get off my lawn, but at the same time quit being a pussy, there are a lot tougher jobs out there than box monkey #21.

Indeed. I have done worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760873)

I have had hard jobs. Hauling drywall around for half a cent a square foot and a quota of 48,000 pounds a day for 100 bucks was the worst. (take that 16 ton coal miners) Some drywall is even covered in lead (x-ray rooms) that tripled the weight for the same pay. Taking it up 10 flights of stairs didn't pay any better either.

That job taught me some things:
Lead tastes delicious and it stains your skin smurf blue.
I know what asbestos smells like.
Go limp before you are crushed by something to avoid broken bones.
With enough weight falling on your hand all the blood can be forced to one side, splitting it open and spraying everything in the area.
Saying 'Fuck you! I'm calling OSHA.' when someone tells you to clean up the blood before you go home will get you fired.
OSHA doesn't care.

Good times.

Luxury. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761167)

We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of 'ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!

Well, of course, we had it tough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40762555)

We used to 'ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick road clean wit' tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife.

Re:harsh warehouse working conditions (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#40762195)

You should have gone on welfare instead. You make more money, and don't have to work. It's nobody's fault but your own you have some sort of bizarre self-sacrificing gene that requires you to do stupid things and complain about it afterwards. There is no glory in work, you're just a tool of the capitalist bankers. Sit back and relax, enjoy wealth redistribution instead.

Dont believe it (1)

Dun Kick The Noob (904001) | about 2 years ago | (#40760495)

Don't forget there is always approval wall. Reasons ive been given, heard from colleagues
1. Theres no budget (then they send someone using the same budget to an introductory course to java programming)(yah he was a java programmer %$&*&*)
2. You are well qualified and dont need training (contradict with promotion time , you dont have the qualifications that the other guy has)
3. You are in a critical role you need to train back up to cover( righhttttt)
4. Budget is used up
5. Not Your Turn
Besides after you are trained, there is no guarantee you can get that next opening in the company.

Also this programme is targeted at associate degrees and less, which really has very little value since there is a huge glut for bachelors
This should be a labor retention policy dressed as a training policy,

You prevent turnover for the duration of the course and also things such as pay increments and bad reviews. Employees tend not to hop when they have to study,they want stability. Even Bad Stability. I know i was one of them

yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40760579)

Like they'll ever have time to use that benefit. Amazon are freaking slave drivers, working their employees around the clock

umm (0)

buddyglass (925859) | about 2 years ago | (#40760627)

This seems a little patronizing. If I were an Amazon employee I might rather they take the money they're planning to spend subsidizing employee training and just pay it out in the form of additional salary. Then I could spend it on whatever I pleased.

Amazon is switching to robots (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#40761059)

Amazon just bought Kiva Systems [] , which makes warehouse fulfillment system robots. Kiva already powers orders from major brands including Crate and Barrel,, Dillards,, Gap, Office Depot, Saks, Staples, Timberland, Toys-R-Us, and Walgreens. This [] is what order fulfillment is like with those robots. It takes about two minutes to learn the job and there is no chance for advancement.

The people being "retrained" will be laid off soon.

Re:Amazon is switching to robots (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40761315)

I really don't think this has anything to do with personal development as much as it has to do with the upcoming cattle call for peak season.This is more or less another carrot to dangle since it's getting harder to get people to come back. People don't like being led on and generally treated like shit from managers that act as if they are running a military operation.It gets old after the first week or so. I spent a few years there and still feel bad for the way temps. were treated. I've seen Kiva in action and am not at all impressed - lot of down time.

Re:Amazon is switching to robots (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40762759)

Replying anonymously because I work for one of the companies mentioned. Kiva is very cool, and is very good a increasing productivity in picking lots of small items. However, it has issues with bulk carton picking, putaway, and shipping. There's a lot more going on in a warehouse than putting items into boxes, and folks need to realize that plenty of other technologies exist in this market to make picking very efficient, for the purpose of minimizing employees. Pick to light, pick to voice, carousels, a-frames, high speed conveyors, even optimized cart/path picking can have similar result to Kiva, depending on the types of product picked, and the overall pick volume.

meh (1)

eWarz (610883) | about 2 years ago | (#40761139)

The small business I work for offers full tuition reimbursement for any class provided you pass. Try again amazon.

McDonalds, UPS.... (4, Informative)

sonamchauhan (587356) | about 2 years ago | (#40761433)

Educational assistance is fairly common...

McDonalds, UPS... []

"McDonald's tuition assistance program will reimburse up to $5,250 a year (which is the maximum IRS exemption), and $2,000 for part-time employees, which in effect adds two dollars an hour to someone's earnings. UPS has a program called Earn and Learn where students can have their tuition, expenses and transportation paid for if they work a part-time schedule; since 1999, UPS has paid out more than $47 million in tuition assistance alone."

B&N []

"Continuing Education
Our continuing education program offers full-time booksellers tuition assistance if you choose to further your business career by taking courses toward a job-related degree. "

Toot toot (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 2 years ago | (#40762407)

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but maybe those "train workers" could find new jobs with Ruby on Rails.
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