Better educated workforce is coming to Ohio, thanks to Stark State College, Amazon, Intel – Akron Beacon Journal

The Amazon Fulfillment Center has transformed Akron in more ways than one. 
5,000 people labor at the Romig Road site, with dozens of trucks coming and going every day. The days of weeds and cracked pavement surrounding a vacant Rolling Acres Mall seem like a distant memory. 
Workers make at least $15 per hour and draw benefits, but there’s more — college tuition. 
Amazon is offering employees the chance to transform themselves through education. They can receive a generous amount toward tuition, fees and books so they can pursue a bachelor’s degree, earn industry certifications and become proficient in English or complete high school programs.   
Stark State College and the University of Akron are among 11 partners around the state. Since 2010, more than 1,000 Amazon employees in Ohio have participated in receiving tuition. 
Stark State President Para M. Jones said Amazon employees can get much of their bill covered at Stark State, where tuition is about $4,500 annually.   
Full-time employees receive $5,250 annually and part-time employees get half of that. “It goes far here,” Jones said. 
This reminds us that Stark State, with campuses in Jackson Township and Akron, has also been doing a fine job of filling a need for lower-cost education in high-demand fields. 
Jones says Amazon’s Career Choice program is great for recruiting and retaining employees. 
But Randy Gardner, the Ohio Department of Higher Education chancellor, also sees it as benefiting the state’s economy “by building a workforce pipeline for the present and the future.” 
Amazon deserves applause for this effort. Its workers will have brighter futures, whether at Amazon or elsewhere. 
Also making a major investment in education is chipmaker Intel, which will be building a $20 billion semiconductor operation east of Columbus. 
Intel will distribute $50 million in grants directly to Ohio colleges and universities; an additional $50 million will be given to educators and science programs nationwide to create STEM curriculum. Another $50 million will be matched by the National Science Foundation to support new research initiatives across the country. 
About 40% of the 3,000 jobs at the Licking County site will involve technicians with associate degrees, the Associated Press reported. People with bachelor’s degrees to doctorates will hold the rest of the jobs. 
In many cases, students in the upgraded programs that Intel is helping to fund will gain real-world experience, the company says. 
These are exciting times for Ohio, which in recent decades has failed to invest in higher education, keeping it near the bottom in college affordability.
With schools like Stark State striving to keep costs down, and companies like Amazon and Intel investing in education, better days are ahead for Ohio.
Amazon has its share of critics for its business practices, but as we know, online shopping is here to stay. Akron, and soon, Canton, are enjoying the many benefits of having the innovative company make major investments in the region.
As the U.S. Census Bureau points out, people who hold a bachelor’s degree “have higher lifetime earnings, lower odds of unemployment and better health outcomes” compared with noncollege graduates.
Both Intel, which makes semiconductors that are key to computers, smart phones, cars and appliances, and Amazon, which relies on robots, scanners and conveyor belts, need those educated workers.
We often hope that companies will be good neighbors who are generous in their communities. Intel and Amazon, by focusing on education, are helping their future employees to be successful neighbors — ones who have the tools to move up the economic ladder.


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