Reporter’s notebook

  • SUNY Orange joins Amazon Career Choice
  • Robots, automation and education
  • Lyft discounts at Harper College
  • DOL grants to help coal-mining areas

SUNY Orange joins Amazon Career Choice

SUNY Orange is the latest community college in the State University of New York system (SUNY) to become an education partner for the Amazon Career Choice program, which provides Amazon’s hourly employees access to the college’s degree and certificate programs.

The Career Choice program offers participants an array of education and upskilling opportunities, including pre-paid college tuition, industry certifications and foundational skills, such as English language proficiency. Amazon says it is investing $1.2 billion to upskill more than 300,000 U.S. employees by the year 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

“Many residents in Orange County and beyond are looking for convenient ways to access high-quality, affordable higher education without incurring significant debt, and Amazon’s Career Choice program is an excellent opportunity for Amazon employees to take college credits while they are working,” SUNY Orange President Kristine Young said in a release.

Amazon’s program has a rigorous selection process for third-party partner educators, choosing partners that are focused on helping employees through their education programs, assisting them with job placements, and overall offering education that leads to career success. To date, more than 80,000 Amazon employees have participated in Career Choice, according to the company.

Robots, automation and education

Despite increased industry demand for robotics and automation, a lack of robotics training and education is a key barrier to widespread adoption of robotic automation, a new survey shows.

Four in five education professionals say robots and automation will shape employment over the next decade, yet only one in four education institutions use robots as part of their teaching programs, according to a survey by international technology company ABB.

In order to develop more resilient supply chains — remember the supply chain issues and labor shortages that hit companies hard during the Covid pandemic — more businesses in Europe and U.S. are ramping up their use of robots and automation, ABB says. In fact, 62% of U.S. businesses surveyed plan to invest in robots and automation in the next three years as part of their strategies to re- or nearshore operations.

But the global survey found that only 25% of 2,301 education providers polled currently use robots as part of their teaching program. Such programs teach participants how to use software, develop teamwork skills and boost research and problem-solving, says ABB, which offers up to 100 licenses to use its RobotStudio software free of charge to colleges and universities.

ABB affiliate schools include several community colleges — such as Fox Valley Technical College (Wisconsin) and Piedmont Technical College (South Carolina) — which serve as ABB partner training facilities.

Lyft discounts at Harper College

Recognizing that transportation is a big barrier for many students, Harper College this month became the first community college in Illinois to partner with Lyft to offer discounted rides for students when it is from or to one of Harper’s campuses.

Eligible students can receive $10 off for each ride, up to four rides a month. In the two weeks since the pilot program launched, students have already taken 258 rides, according to the college.

More than 100 colleges and universities have joined with Lyft to offer discounts to students and staff.

DOL grants to help coal-mining areas

The U.S. Department of Labor this week announced the recipients of grants totaling $34.4 million to provide education, training and supportive services in regions hit hard by job losses in the energy extraction industry. Among them are five community colleges and a state system in the Appalachian and Mississippi Delta regions.

The colleges that are members of the American Association of Community Colleges and state system receiving the latest round of grants through the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities Initiative are:

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.