This 'peculiar' Amazon program has paid 7,000 workers to get training for a new career -- even if it's not at Amazon

When it comes to Amazon’s more than 230,000 employees, most of which are blue collar warehouse workers, Amazon is in a rock and a hard place.

The company currently needs lots of people to stock, pack, and ship the billions of items people order each year. But Amazon is moving to replace increasing numbers of them with the Kiva robots it bought when it acquired Kiva for $775 million in 2012.

These robots automate the picking and packing process at large warehouses. Kiva has saved the company $22 million for each warehouse where they are used, it says, but Amazon has, so far, only installed them in 13 of its fulfillment centres. There are 110 fulfillment centres that don’t have them yet.

Instead of a blind eye to the day when Amazon won’t need all those folks, it’s come up with an interesting solution: pay the tuition to help workers train for better paying jobs.

It’s Career Choice Program was launched in 2012 and Amazon just announced that, so far, more than 7,000 hourly employees in 10 countries have taken part in the program, with more than 1,300 employees taking a college-level or vocational course at classrooms that Amazon has located in its warehouses.

Many companies offer tuition reimbursement programs that will help them advance in their chosen field or within the company. This program is “peculiar” (Amazon’s own word) for pre-paying up to 95% or $12,000 worth of the tuition to train for another type of career.

Employees have studied for fields like game design, programming, nursing, radiology and accounting. However, the most popular choice by far: commercial trucking.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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