The University of Central Florida is teaming up with Amazon’s Career Choice program — an educational benefits opportunity for Amazon employees to earn an education and learn new skills for their careers at Amazon or elsewhere.

Once eligible students are approved through the program, Amazon will work directly with UCF to pre-pay the applicable tuition and fees. Interested students can visit Amazon Career Choice for more information.

Students have already begun enrolling in the program. One of those students, Valeria Villa, is a full-time process assistant at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Lake Nona, where she has worked for three years.

“It’s amazing,” says Villa. “It was the best thing that they could do.”

Villa is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in emerging media at UCF and says the program will provide “better opportunities for growth.” She plans to pursue a career in graphic design, perhaps with Amazon.

UCF has partnered with multiple major companies in recent years to help make attending college more affordable. In 2019, UCF joined with Disney Aspire, the theme park giant’s educational investment program, to offer free tuition for cast members in selected degree programs. Earlier this year, UCF was added to the educational partner list of several Fortune 1000 companies like Target, Chipotle and Taco Bell.

“Tuition assistance programs like these are crucial in positioning students to succeed academically and professionally,” says Theodorea Regina Berry, vice provost of Student Learning and Academic Success and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies.  “UCF will continue to collaborate with corporate and civic partners to prepare students to become workforce innovators and future leaders.”

Amazon’s Career Choice program launched in 2012. It’s one of a variety of education and upskilling opportunities Amazon offers, including full college tuition, industry certifications that position workers for in-demand jobs, and foundational skills, such as English language proficiency, high school diplomas, and GEDs. More than 50,000 Amazon employees globally have participated since the program’s inception. This is part of a $1.2 billion investment from Amazon to upskill more than 300,000 U.S. Amazon employees by 2025 to help move them into higher-paying, in-demand jobs.

“We’re looking forward to UCF coming on board as an education partner for Career Choice, adding to the hundreds of best-in-class offerings available to our employees,” says Tammy Thieman, Global Program Lead of Amazon’s Career Choice program. “We’re committed to empowering our employees by providing them access to the education and training they need to grow their careers, whether that’s with us or elsewhere. We have intentionally cultivated a partner network of third-party educators and employers committed to providing excellent education, job placement resources, and continuous improvements to the experience. Today, over 50,000 Amazon employees around the world have already participated in Career Choice and we’ve seen first-hand how it can transform their lives.”

UCF estimates it has more than 600 alumni working at Amazon locations across the country in a variety of management, marketing and information technology roles.

Since 2010 Amazon has created more than 59,000 full- and part-time jobs in Florida and has invested more than $18 billion in the state. The company currently operates more than 50 sites in Florida that support customer fulfillment and delivery operations. Last August, Amazon announced a Florida expansion to include a new robotics fulfillment center and five new delivery stations that are expected to create more than 2,000 full-time jobs.

Amazon’s Central Florida footprint already includes the fulfillment center in Lake Nona, which last year expanded to include a new print-on-demand center. In December, the Daytona Beach City Commission approved plans for a new distribution center expected to bring at least 1,000 new jobs to the area.

UCF is also now featured on season 3 of The College Tour, a TV series streaming on Amazon Prime that gives viewers an inside look at college and campus life at UCF through the experiences of students, faculty and alumni. The season premiered on Feb. 15.