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UWF Students Learn Through Amazon Work-Study

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Amazon.com and the University of West Florida are teaming up for a work-study partnership which, among other things, forms a pathway to employment with the online firm.

It’s the first such partnership in Florida, and UWF President Martha Saunders says it began with a phone call from an associate who works as a consultant for Amazon.

“He said that Amazon had put together a wonderful work-study program for the Indiana system,” said Saunders. “They were very interested in getting into Florida, and that they were having getting into the door. And he said, ‘I know someone who will take your call.’”

Under the program, UWF students get the chance to earn money working for Amazon virtually, while going to school. They can work from their own homes or dorm rooms, most likely in customer service-related projects. They’ll also be assigned a mentor from Amazon.

Amazon is seeking 500 students nationwide, including 100 at Florida colleges, to kick off the program. Saunders, who’s fairly sure that UWF can provide at least 50 of them, is already looking beyond Amazon.

“We’ve already gotten some calls from some companies that said, ‘Hey, we want to be in this, too,’” said Saunders. “Our students win. First of all, they make more than minimum wage, so they’ll be making a pretty decent salary while they’re in school. They can work around their own schedules, and get a job in the end at a great place. It’s all good.”

Students with any major in any field of study at UWF are eligible for the program, when representatives from Amazon begin recruiting on campus.

The relationship with Amazon, says UWF President Martha Saunders, could also open doors to both online and brick-and-mortar firms who are looking for potential employees who have a bit of real-life experience to go with their studies.

“To wait until the student graduates, is sometimes too late because they need to be getting certain kinds of experiences and influences while they’re in school,” Saunders said. “It’s a real mutual benefit for both our students – because they’re getting the guidance they need to get the jobs, and then the company gets exactly the kind of person that they want.”

Telephone calls and emails to Seattle-based Amazon were not returned. The contract was signed in January, and the work-study program will launch this fall. More information can be found at www.uwf.edu.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.