The following was originally posted by the Monterey County Weekly.
As Car Week gave way to Labor Day, a very different version of star power was on display at the Monterey Marriott last week. Wendy Peterson, worldwide manager of career choice for Amazon, was joined by Brian Poland, Walmart’s national director of lifelong learning, to talk to a roomful of California workforce professionals about techniques that the private sector is deploying to raise the living standards of the working poor. Say what?
It’s true. Amazon is paying (not reimbursing, but paying outright) for its lowest-earning frontline employees to get career training and educational credentials so that those folks can advance professionally outside Amazon. The company will pay up to $3,000 a year for up to four years for warehouse workers or customer service reps to become certified medical technicians, AutoCAD draftspeople, or licensed long-haul truck drivers, or to get a GED or associate’s degree.
Walmart offers its employees tuition assistance and university classes, and works to help them get college credit for the duties they perform as part of their jobs. The largest retailer in the world will pay for any employee or a relative of the employee to get a GED while employed. They offer a program called Pathways for low-wage frontline employees to get training and a credential so they can increase their income, whether within or outside Walmart.
It was a stunner for me.
Not so for Jamie Fall, the director of UpSkill America at the Aspen Institute, and the fellow who invited me to join the Walmart and Amazon folks. Fall says such private sector actions are part of the strategy to combat income inequality and alleviate poverty. According to his data, 20 percent of American workers – 40 million working people – lack a high school diploma. For most of these people, career advancement is a myth: 60 percent of low-skilled workers earn less than $16,000 a year.
This piece was excerpted from “Walmart, Amazon and a nonprofit train the workforce of tomorrow” by the Monterey County Weekly’s Erik Cushman. Click here to read more.
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