EmployBridge, a large industrial staffing company whose ProLogistix unit is the biggest employer of U.S. warehouse and distribution center workers, said today it will make free online educational courses available to EmployBridge workers interested in obtaining new skills for career advancement.
The educational initiative, called "Better Worklife Academy," will be offered through Penn Foster, a Scranton, Pa.-based company which provides online learning and skills training across multiple industries. Atlanta-based EmployBridge will underwrite the cost of the courses, it said. Associates need to work for EmployBridge for 80 hours to be eligible for the program.
According to EmployBridge, the program will appeal to workers who want to move into better-paying and more stimulating positions, but don't have the time or the resources to attend community colleges and other forms of traditional education. Brian Devine, who founded ProLogistix in 1999, said the courses are divided into 20- and 30-miniute modules, allowing students to squeeze in a module or two on their lunch break, on their way to work, or at home after work. The curriculum is a mix of logistics, manufacturing, and clerical offerings, Devine said.
The tremendous growth of e-commerce demand has resulted in an influx of warehouse workers in recent years. However, many of these workers may be at risk of job loss because the jobs their current skills require could end up being automated. At the same time, there continues to be strong demand in the logistics industry for workers possessing more advanced skill sets.
U.S. employers have long complained about the trouble finding workers with in-demand skills that could not be replaced by automation.
Seattle-based Amazon.com. Inc., which is opening fulfillment centers at a breakneck pace, offers 95-percent tuition reimbursement to employees taking coursework in high-demand industries.
ProLogistix provides warehouse and DC staffing services to its customers, with the workers remaining on ProLogistix's payroll. The unit employs about 17,000 people per week during the first three-quarters of the year. Its fourth-quarter staffing levels rise to 21,000 because of the huge demand for warehouse and DC labor during the retail peak holiday season, Devine said.