A collage of workers performing various duties

In a time when technology can render skills obsolete seemingly overnight, Amazon is working to ensure its employees are not left behind. Recently, Amazon celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Career Choice program.

The skills training benefit is part of Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 pledge, aimed at helping employees maintain and grow their skills and achieve their career aspirations. So far, the company has committed to invest over $1.2 billion into upskilling, to provide 300,000 U.S. employees with tailored training programs and pre-paid education.

“Employees tell us that upskilling is wildly important to them and that it’s something they desire from an employer,” said Tammy Thieman, global director of the program.


Andrea Bussard and her Russian blue cat

Andrea Bussard with her favorite work and study buddy launched her Career Choice journey through an online program at the City University of Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Amazon)

The Career Choice program has seen a whopping 93% year-over-year increase in employee participation since 2022, when it broadened its offerings to include pre-paid college tuition, high school diplomas, GEDs, and English language proficiency. These expanded offerings — and their popularity — bode well for Amazon’s long-term retention efforts. According to LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting 2023 report, employees at companies with high internal mobility stay 60% longer.

“I think it really just speaks to Amazon’s commitment to upskilling and to really building into people,” said Thieman of the program, whose partnerships span more than 400 global colleges and educational institutions. The program aims to be both accessible and versatile, with a wide variety of options for participating employees. One employee, Andrea Bussard, launched her Career Choice journey through an online program at the City University of Seattle, where she is able to balance her studies and her role on Amazon’s social media team.“I thought it would be unwise to not take up the opportunity because it's just an amazing one,” she said of the decision.

In Washington state the program currently boasts thirteen local education partners, including community colleges, trade schools, and colleges and universities. The program also offers national and online partners for employees to find the program that is best for them. 

“Amazon has been a major influence in higher education, helping us see the value of blending specific, applied skills and theoretical knowledge. That’s what today’s workforce needs. CityU and Amazon have been working together for several years, including collaboration aimed at promoting veterans and military spouses with these highly focused training programs, with soft skills that can lead directly to new job opportunities, or promotions. We are proud to have CityU further enhance its partnership with Amazon through Career Choice and to continue helping to upskill their employees with career-relevant programs,” said Randy C. Frisch, president of City University of Seattle.

Bussard knew she wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree focusing on applied psychology at the City University of Seattle: Her father used to be a motivational speaker, which sparked her interest in the field. 

The program's flexibility allowed Bussard to seamlessly integrate her coursework into her busy work schedule; online classes are a great option for working professionals, and embody the flexibility Career Choice offers. Bussard’s educational goals also align with her work at Amazon. Her responsibilities on the social media team involve monitoring platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube to provide support to customers in real time. Her training in psychology gives her a unique perspective on understanding and assisting customers who may need help navigating moments of need. “I’ve really taken to mental health and helping people from a psychological perspective with brain function and how they can improve their situation,” she said.

The program also brought in new internal supports for Bussard and her work. Within Amazon’s community, she’s joined Slack channels dedicated to mental health and neurodiversity, where she and other employees share insights and discuss research she has access to through schooling. She’s happy to share. “The library resource that I have within the [City University Seattle] website from Career Choice is amazing,” said Bussard. “I feel like I can reference that anytime I want to sift through and look at research articles.”

One of the program's most significant impacts on Bussard has been a boost in her confidence. Pursuing excellence in her psychology coursework has also reaffirmed her career choice and her work at Amazon.

“I just got my grades back and I also got over 90% on all three of our papers and pretty much every assignment,” said Bussard. “Not that I needed that to feel good, but it was something just reassuring me that I’m on the right path.” Upon graduating, Bussard intends to leverage her newly acquired skills in a role that involves mentoring and coaching — options that Amazon also provides internally.

While Bussard’s experience is hyper-specific to Seattle, the Career Choice program is a global initiative. Currently operating in 14 countries, Amazon designed the program to be globally inclusive and  locally relevant, adjusting specific offerings and eligibility criteria by country. This ensures that the program addresses the unique challenges and opportunities present in different global job markets.

Given this broad scope, Bussard’s career transition is just one among many the Career Choice program has enabled. More than 150,000 worldwide Career Choice participants have benefited from the program over the last decade.

As the landscape of work continues to evolve, Amazon’s proactive approach to upskilling demonstrates the possibilities and benefits of investing in lifelong learning and community well-being. As Thieman described it, the goals are not just about Amazon's bottom line; it’s about contributing to a more skilled and adaptable global workforce.

“Even if they don’t stay with us, the skills they gain have a meaningful impact,” she said.