Work and study for free benefits – are we creating a new generation?

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In recent months, the push for continuing education has become a prominent modern trend for working adults. Employees and employers alike are pushing to be part of, and depend on, a more educated and skilled workforce. Especially within specific fields like medicine, tech, and finance, the need for continuing education has transformed the pursuit of adult education from an outlier phenomenon to the “new normal.”

The modern push for continuing education for adults has led to a multitude of companies offering their employees incredible work-study benefits. And it’s not just large corporations who are offering these types of work-study programs for their employees. Even small companies have begun to add work-study programs into employee benefit packages. Not only do these benefits provide an incentive for employees to become better equipped to handle the rigors of the modern workplace, it also gives employers the opportunity to support those who diligently provide their professional services for the benefit of the company as a whole.

Work-study benefits feature all kinds of continuing education packages for employees wherein employees can pursue a degree part-time and still remain gainfully employed. One company that is leading the way in work-study for employees is the tech giant Amazon.

In a recent USA Today article, it was revealed that Amazon will be expanding its educational benefits to all hourly employees. Previously the benefit of having Amazon cover full tuition (including books and miscellaneous fees) was only offered to salaried employees.

This groundbreaking maneuver not only sets a new standard for other companies in similar positions; it also intensely affirms the groundswell of the last few years that continuing education for adults is the new normal.

If continuing education through work-study employee benefits is the new normal…

What does this mean for workers and students?

For starters, this means that students no longer have to view higher education as the only means of procuring a high-paying job. In fact, this new way of doing things actually proves that getting a job and then pursuing higher education is just as reasonable as pursuing education and then searching for work.

Many times the work-study benefits that are offered by a company come with additional incentives like promotions within the company upon completion of a degree. It is far less labor-intensive for a company to find the perfect candidate with the exact training and education needed than it is to educate a trusted employee, arm them with the necessary skills and then promote from within.

This method of educating employees and offering better position options as a result truly is a win-win.

Secondly, the push for continuing education through work-study benefits means that there are now new alternatives for those who cannot afford a typical four-year university. Instead of footing the bill themselves, workers can now seek employment with a company that offers a competitive work-study benefits package in an effort to finance their educational goals.

Not only are tuition costs dramatically decreased, but you are still working and making money while attending school!

This is not to say that the process of holding a job and going to school will be easy.

Working a full-time job while pursuing a degree is a difficult task; however, the rewards of participating in a work-study program provided by an employer include the education needed for personal growth, a degree needed for rising in your chosen career path, and perhaps most importantly – a way to receive an education without accruing massive amounts of debt.

What does this mean for educators and institutions?

For starters, it means more students. With more companies adding work-study benefits to their employee benefits packages daily, the need for receptive institutions with the means to support an influx of new students will be crucial.

Institutions of higher learning will have to find ways to meet the demand of what is sure to be a rapid influx of new students. It should be noted that this trend for continuing adult education doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. For many institutions, the new influx of students will not be a one-time event but rather an exponential growth over months and years.

We may be looking at a potential higher-learning renaissance wherein institutions have to reassess how courses are offered, the construction of different degree programs, and even the way students interact with faculty, staff, and each other.

Certainly, online courses will be a large part of how institutions deal with demand, but there will likely need to be other shifts in the student experience beyond just being able to digest information online on your own time. What those changes maybe are still to be determined, but those who work in higher education should be working to ready themselves for whatever changes might be coming in the not too distant future.

Finally, institutions should probably look into getting on as one of Amazon’s preferred higher-learning providers. With all this guaranteed tuition money, there’s little sense in sitting on the sidelines while other institutions see an influx of new students whose tuition is fully funded by a third party.

The push for continuing education has never been stronger than it is right now. Whether it’s going back to school for a masters, adding an additional skill set to your repertoire, or even learning a new trade, the push for higher education is being driven by the need for educated, skilled professionals and a global trend toward jobs which require a more diverse employee skillset.

Does Amazon’s announcement mean that all corporations and companies will need to offer some kind of similar work/study program? Of course not! Amazon is worth billions, and their work-study program is specific to their abilities to provide this kind of incentive to their employees. Additionally, Amazon’s connections with a multitude of higher-learning establishments no doubt help in their ability to guarantee admission and secure spaces in industry-related programs.

With all that said, there is no shortage of companies who are following Amazon’s lead and ensuring that they too are able to offer their employees an opportunity for self-improvement, broadened horizons, and a rare opportunity to build a future without sacrificing the present.





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