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Amazon offers to pay college fees of 750,000 frontline US workers

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Amazon has offered to pay the cost of college tuition fees for 750,000 of its frontline workers, the latest move by a major US company to offer perks to attract and retain staff amid a labour shortage.

The company, which is investing $1.2bn (£0.86bn) in the scheme by 2025, said it would cover the cost of college tuition fees and textbooks for US hourly staff after 90 days of employment for as long as they remain at Amazon.

It will also begin covering the cost of other types of education, including high school diplomas and English-language courses, as well as extending on-the-job career training to 300,000 people.

“Amazon is now the largest job creator in the US,” said Dave Clark, the chief executive of worldwide consumer at Amazon, in a blogpost. “We know that investing in free skills training for our teams can have a huge impact for hundreds of thousands of families across the country.”

Amazon is the latest big US firm to offer education-focused perks to workers after similar moves by Walmart, Target and Kroger. Last month, Walmart said it would pay the costs of tuition and books for its hourly staff, with about 1.5 million workers eligible. Target has said it will offer free undergraduate degrees to more than 340,000 staff in the US.

According to the US Department of Labor, job vacancies hit a record high of 10.9m in July, exceeding the number of unemployed people by more than 2m.

Earlier this month, a branch of McDonald’s in the US urged 14- and 15-year-olds to apply for jobs to plug a shortage of fast food chain workers.

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In May, Amazon said it would hire 750,000 workers across its warehouse and delivery network in the US and Canada. The company hired about 500,000 staff last year.

“Today, there are not enough workers to fill every job in the United States, which means businesses are struggling to hire, especially for roles that require specific or technical skill sets,” said Cheryl Oldham, a senior vice-president at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

“When large employers like Amazon commit to investing in their people through upskilling programmes, it helps to ensure that the business community has access to a workforce pipeline that meets their needs today and in the future.”

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