Amazon study finds apprenticeships more valuable than degrees

A new UK career insights and workplace trends study, commissioned by Amazon, found that the majority of UK workers (61%) believed on-the-job skills training or apprenticeships to be more valuable for preparing people for work today than traditional university degrees.

The study, released as students completed their GCSE and A-Level exams, revealed that less than one third (31%) of workers considered a traditional university degree as essential for a good career as it was ten years ago.

The Amazon Future of Work & Career Development European study, conducted by Ipsos, also found that a majority of UK employees (79%) thought it important to learn a new skill to improve their career path in the next twelve months, more so than receiving a promotion (67%).

When considering moving to a new job or role, 86% of adults stated that career development training is essential, very, or fairly important. They also regarded training programmes offered by a potential employer as more or equally important as company culture (84%) and flexible working (75%). One potential reason is that many workers in the study said it would make them feel supported (41%), encouraged (38%), motivated (38%), and valued (37%) to work for a company that provides access to career development training. Additionally, nearly a quarter of workers in the UK (24%) stated they couldn’t afford to pay for training on their own.

Amazon has adapted to the ever-changing career and education landscape, investing over £55 million in training programmes in the UK since launching its Career Choice programme in 2014. This programme provides 95% of pre-paid tuition, up to £8,000 over four years, for nationally recognised courses from more than 20 training providers across the UK. It offers various training opportunities in a range of popular, in-demand job fields, from tech and sustainability to business administration and logistics, for its operations employees nationwide.

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the Career Choice programme in Europe, Amazon intends to invest £34 million in 2024 and introduce over 25 new programmes across Europe this year. This initiative aims to address both current and future job needs for the thousands of employees involved in the programme. At present, Amazon UK employees have access to over 20 different programmes designed to help them enhance their potential within the company or beyond. New courses being added in the UK for 2024 include information security analyst, software tester, and supply chain specialist.

“I attribute a lot of my growth at Amazon to Career Choice,” said Mo Abdullahi, Senior Operations Manager and Career Choice participant number four in the UK from 2014. “It gave me an opportunity to learn more about the role that I wanted and helped me with obtaining the qualifications that I needed. I’m still super surprised of my journey and growth through Amazon. If I look back 10 years ago and starting as a temporary worker, I certainly wouldn’t have assumed that I would be at the level I am right now and with the responsibility I have now. It’s been an incredible journey.”

Looking ahead to future job requirements, the study highlighted that training will be essential in addressing worker concerns, with 30% worried about lacking the necessary skills and training to stay relevant in their jobs in the coming years. In fact, 74% believed that today’s workforce will need to continually retrain and update their skills to remain employable in the future. However, only 14% of employees reported having access to training that could help them change their career path, and nearly 18% felt they had no access to training through their current employer.

Elsie Merchant, a degree-level apprentice in Automation Engineering at Amazon in Coventry, says: “I’ve loved being involved in all sorts of jobs and projects, so I can learn by doing and applying the theory. I was never keen on going to university, but I knew I wanted to join the industry, and this is a great way to do that while also receiving further education.”

“The research reflects what we’re seeing in our workplace, and that is people in the UK want access to skills training programmes,” said John Boumphrey, Amazon UK Country Manager. “Amazon is proud to have offered our upskilling Career Choice programme in the UK for the past 10 years and now to further expand on our courses options, so that thousands of employees across the UK can continue to advance their skills and take on new career opportunities at Amazon and beyond.”

Amazon is one of the top 10 private employers in the UK, with more than 75,000 employees, and more than 18,500 Amazon employees in the UK have participated in Career Choice since the programme launched.