Amazon Dangles a New Perk in Fight for U.S. Workers: Free Bachelor’s Degrees

From The Wall Street Journal:

The battle for hourly workers is escalating beyond minimum wage across the U.S., as retailers, restaurant chains, garbage haulers and meat processors increasingly dangle the prospect of a free college education as a way to lure and retain staff. Inc. on Thursday plans to announce that it is expanding its educational benefits by offering more than 750,000 U.S. hourly employees the chance to enroll in a fully paid bachelor’s degree program after 90 days of employment. The e-commerce giant says employees will be eligible to get degrees through educational institutions nationwide.

Amazon is trying to attract job seekers in a tight labor market and reduce turnover among some hourly workers. The company has hired 400,000 employees during the pandemic, but it is looking to bring on tens of thousands of additional hourly staffers to work in its fulfillment centers and delivery network over the coming months. Employees working as little as 20 hours a week will be eligible for the college benefit, though Amazon will pay 50% of the college costs for part-time staffers.

“Career progression is the new minimum wage,” said Ardine Williams, a vice president of workforce development at Amazon, who notes employer-funded training can help people prepare for a career that interests them. “Most adult learners don’t have the luxury of quitting their jobs and going to school full-time.”

The stepped-up perks also reflect what executives say is a reality across the corporate sphere: Even $15 an hour, Amazon’s base wage, is no longer enough to attract many workers. As more employers and cities have raised minimum wages, large companies have aimed to differentiate themselves through additional benefits, such as greater time off, more reliable scheduling, access to emergency child care and, increasingly, a path to a broader education and new skills.

Many of America’s biggest companies strengthened educational initiatives this year, or rolled out programs essentially matching the benefits offered by their competitors.

Walmart Inc., one of Amazon’s chief rivals, in July said it would fully subsidize college tuition and books for 1.5 million part-time and full-time employees in the U.S., dropping an earlier requirement that employees pay a $1 daily fee toward their education. Walmart employees can enroll in the program on their first day of employment. The retailer has expanded the number of educational partners over time, adding Johnson & Wales University and the University of Arizona, among others, this summer.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (This should be a free link, but if it doesn’t work, PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG has become increasingly concerned about inflation hitting the US economy with so much government spending, current and proposed.

The rationale for this spending is to help the economy recover from the effects of the Covid shutdowns, but PG is worried about overheating the economy. For him, the challenges Amazon, Walmart and others are having with recruiting at minimum wage is an indicator of inflation. Additionally, he understands that real estate and auto prices (both new and used) have also experienced significant increases.

The last period of major inflation in the US was in th3 1980’s, about forty years ago. This means that the only adults who actually experienced this inflationary period is in their 60’s. He worries that those in their 40’s making government economic policy have only a theoretical understanding about how damaging inflation can be to an economy and to individuals trying to deal with this serious impact on their finances.

4 thoughts on “Amazon Dangles a New Perk in Fight for U.S. Workers: Free Bachelor’s Degrees”

  1. Salary inflation + high unemployment = dysfunction.
    The official unemployment numbers are always suspect (6%?) but neither minimum wage boosts nor perks (or open borders) will solve the massive shortages of skilled workers. Automation will, though. Rising salaries for the entry level is a good driver of automation. Fast food drive thrus are already seeing this.

    Amazon has been working on chashierless checkouts in their convenience stores and this week added it to two Whole Foods supermarkets.

    Black warehouses are next.

  2. I agree with PG. It’s a little scary hearing proponents of modern monetary theory (MMT) saying the amount of government debt doesn’t matter. I’m old enough to have lived through the previous inflation. Once inflation gets started, it’s not easy to stop…and with all the money figuratively printed lately, the federal budget deficit, labor shortages, and cost pressures all the elements of prolonged inflation are in place. At least finally a few of the Federal Reserve board members appear to be becoming concerned about inflation. Printed money and low interest rates were necessary to get through the initial pandemic, but it is now creating problems in inflation and localized asset bubbles in the markets.

    • The first giveaway was justifiable: it injected needed liquidity faster than the previous “shovel ready” giveaways that still haven’t costed.
      The second was overkill and the third was open vote buying.
      Bad precedents both.

  3. My mother never forgot the 16% CDs she got at the local Savings and Loan in the early Eighties. And she never understood how she was able to invest so much better than any of her highly credentialed kids. Nor did she ever forget to remind us.

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