Amazon would have “social responsibilities” if it came to Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper says

Hickenlooper suggested one of the ways the Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth could help out is by assisting Colorado and other Western states in establishing and growing workforce training programs.

Amazon workers participate in the company's Career Choice program. (Courtesy of Amazon)
Amazon workers participate in the company's Career Choice program. (Courtesy of Amazon)
Amazon workers participate in the company’s Career Choice program. (Courtesy of Amazon)

Amazon has a social responsibility to help Colorado workers if it decides to locate its new headquarters within the state, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday.

Hickenlooper suggested one of the ways the Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth could help out is by assisting Colorado and other Western states in establishing and growing workforce training programs. Oddly enough, an executive from Amazon was across town Monday saying the company wants to do just that.

Amazon announced this month that it’s looking for where to build its second headquarters or HQ2. The facility could employ as many as 50,000 people — which would put it on par with the town of Parker — and bring more than $5 billion in construction and operation investments.

Amazon is expected to make its site selection decision sometime next year.

“People ask us about our low unemployment,” Hickenlooper said, “‘Is that going to be an obstacle?'”

Just 2.4 percent of the workforce was without a job last month, according to the state. Amazon will likely be looking for the even harder to find workers with tech skills.

“What we have going for us here is we have what we’re doing with the apprentice program, with skillful.com — all these skills-based approaches,” Hickenlooper said. “We have a strong argument that out of all the communities they are looking at, we’ll probably have the  largest pipeline, on a percentage basis, of getting the people with those skills, young people with those skills, in a position where they are ready to go to work.”

But Colorado’s not just rolling out the welcome mat for the company.

“It’s important to recognize this is a large corporation and that it does have some social responsibilities. It’s our job to figure out how can they help us,” Hickenlooper said. “They have the capacity to take something like the workforce training programs and really help us figure out ways to ramp them up much more rapidly and do that for all the Western states.”

Hickenlooper made his comments in downtown Denver during a Western Governors’ Association meeting focused on workforce development. Earlier in the day, Amazon’s global director of associate career development, Juan Garcia, was across town pitching Colorado leaders on its Career Choice program.

Through the program, Amazon offers to pay 95 percent of the tuition and fees for hourly workers to earn certificates and associate degrees in high-demand occupations like aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, or machine tool technologies.

Career Choice is offered to those who have been with the company for at least a year so it’s possible some workers in Aurora are already participating. The sortation center opened east of Denver in June 2016.  A fulfillment center is expected to open in Aurora this month.

The fulfillment facility that’s expected to open in Thornton during fall 2018 is planned to include a classroom for workers who want to participate in on site classes through Career Choice, Garcia said.

Juan Garcia, global director of associate career development for Amazon, speaks a the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Denver, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (Courtesy of Cher Roybal Haavind/Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)
Juan Garcia, global director of associate career development for Amazon, speaks a the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Denver, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (Courtesy of Cher Roybal Haavind/Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)

More than 12,000 people across 10 countries have participated in Career Choice since Amazon launched the program in 2012.

“The biggest change is Jeff Bezos has committed to open sourcing, to giving it to any other companies out there — large or small,” Garcia said. “We want to share our experience and say, ‘Here’s our playbook. Here’s how we administer it. Here’s our relationship with schools. Here are our labor market studies that drive what we offer.'”

One of factors Amazon will take into consideration when deciding where to locate HQ2 is the schools or other institutions communities have that can partner with the company for Career Choice. For example, Amazon plans to bring local educators to its classroom in Thornton.

“The benefit that Amazon is getting out of this is letting our folks chase their dreams,” Garcia said. “We think what comes with that is a better recruit. They’re more engaged when they’re with us, and they’re less likely to quit.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.