As the online education market continues to shift
, strong student demand and low tuition rates may not be enough to get good results for credential programs aimed at working learners.
For example, Amazon announced this week
that it has tapped Kaplan and Beyond 12, a California-based nonprofit group, to provide academic and career coaching to 750K frontline U.S. workers
who are eligible to participate in the company’s free college program.
Google made a similar move earlier this year by enlisting two nonprofit training partners
, Merit America and Year Up, to offer skills training, career services, and wraparound supports to 20K students the company seeks to enroll
in Google Career Certificates. The services will be covered through a $100M fund
Google set up to provide no-interest loans to students.
The new funding for career coaching comes as companies face pressure to offer more advancement options
to frontline employees, particularly workers of color.
While career navigation remains too siloed as young people move across K-12, higher education, and early-career roles, this crucial form of student support is gaining steam, says Kyle Hartung
, an associate vice president at JFF. “For the first time in a long time, the needs of business and education are really aligning.”
Amazon made several requests for proposals last fall, around the time the company expanded its education and skills training program
and made the benefit free to employees with a $1.2B investment
over three years. Amazon was looking for help with student advising and career navigation as well as college partners.
“We recognize there are times when adults need one-on-one support to navigate the challenges of going to school while working,”
says Tammy Thieman
, the global lead for Amazon’s Career Choice.
The company announced in March that it had selected
140 colleges and universities to offer degrees and certificates to participating employees. The retail giant is administering Career Choice itself, rather than working with an education benefits platform. And the agnostic approach of the two coaching providers it picked—Kaplan affiliates aren’t offering credentials through the program—was a plus for the company.
“We’re supporting their huge menu of choices,” says Brandon Busteed
, Kaplan’s chief partnership officer, by asking, “what’s the best path for an Amazon employee?”
Beyond 12 and Kaplan have been working for three months with Career Choice, which currently has 80K participants, according to Amazon. Beyond 12 coaches have supported roughly 1,700 Amazon employees so far, and thousands of employees have used Kaplan’s services.
Some of the 300K hourly workers Amazon wants to enroll in Career Choice will use skills and credentials they earn to advance in the company. But as Walmart’s CEO, John Furner
, said during a recent interview
about his company’s free college program, most participating Amazon employees will find jobs elsewhere. And the company has been open about wanting to make sure Career Choice leads to good jobs in high-demand fields.
“They want to maximize that investment in any way,” says Busteed, the global head of learn-work innovation for Kaplan.
That includes helping frontline workers avoid what he calls “failed success outcomes,” where they earn a degree or certificate through a free college program but fail to get a promotion or a foothold in a new career.
The company stressed its diversified postsecondary offerings, which include an expanded focus
on career services. Amazon’s announcement highlighted Kaplan’s experience with test prep, English learning, and international student pathways.
Busteed says advising has long been a core component of Kaplan’s work. For example, he says students in its pathways program
see advisers as soon as they walk through the front door. And the company six years ago moved to a single point of contact for academic, career, and financial aid advising, which means hiring highly trained coaches.
Kaplan’s coaches begin working with Amazon employees as they mull which program to enroll in through Career Choice. Coaches support participants in their academics, as well as with networking, résumé development, job-interview prep, and online brand building.
The company says it’s working with other corporate education benefit programs, with more announcements on the way.
Busteed says academic and career advising doesn’t get much attention compared to online learning platforms, including with ed-tech investors. But when done well, he says, it’s the epicenter of employee student success.
The Kicker: “Learners of all ages are more overwhelmed by choices than ever before,” says Busteed.