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Eye on Retail: Amazon unveils nearly $1 billion employee retraining initiative

BY Dan Berthiaume

In one of the biggest corporate retraining initiatives to date, Amazon plans to retrain one-third of its U.S. workforce.

The e-tail giant is pledging to “upskill” 100,000 of its employees across the U.S. by 2025, committing more than $700 million to provide workers with access to training programs that will help them move into more highly skilled roles in Amazon or in other companies. The training, which will be offered to employees in Amazon’s corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores and transportation network, is voluntary and most of the programs are free.

The initiative comes as advanced technology continues to play an increasing role in Amazon and other companies and threatens to drastically impact jobs. Amazon noted that its fastest-growing highly skilled jobs over the last five years are data mapping specialist (832% growth), data scientist (505%), solutions architect (454%), security engineer (229%) and business analyst (160%). And within customer fulfillment, highly skilled roles have increased over 400%, including jobs like logistics coordinator, process improvement manager and transportation specialist within our customer fulfillment network.

The new program, called Upskilling 2025, encompasses a range of new and expanded training programs. These include:

• Amazon Technical Academy, which equips non-technical Amazon employees with the skills to transition into software engineering careers;

• Associate2Tech, which trains fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles regardless of their previous IT experience;

• Machine Learning University, offering employees with technical backgrounds the opportunity to access machine learning skills via an on-site training program;

• AmazonCareer Choice, a pre-paid tuition program designed to train fulfillment center associates in high-demand occupations of their choice;

• Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor-certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon; and

•AWS Training and Certification, which provides employees with courses to build practical AWS Cloud knowledge for use in a technical field.

Amazon Technical Academy, Associate2Tech, and Machine Learning University are new programs, while the e-tailer is also building upon the existing AmazonCareer Choice, Amazon Apprenticeship, and AWS Training and Certification programs. As part of its AmazonCareerchoice expansion, the company is building additional classrooms in its fulfillment centers globally, and expects to have over 60 on-site classrooms by the end of 2020.

“Through our continued investment in local communities in more than 40 states across the country, we have created tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. in the past year alone,” said Beth Galetti, senior VP, HR. “For us, creating these opportunities is just the beginning. While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a stepping stone to different aspirations. We think it’s important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves.”

Arran Stewart, chief visionary officer of Job.com, praised Amazon’s decision to heavily invest in employee training.

“This is an excellent move for Amazon, which has recently come under fire by politicians and activists about substandard working conditions and its role in the underemployment of thousands,” said Stewart. “By offering these benefits to the portion of their workforce which is least upwardly mobile, these workers will be more effective and productive, both in and outside of Amazon. It also serves as a great marketing tool for attracting new workers to Amazon, who hope that they too can benefit from the program.”

Amazon employs more than 630,000 workers worldwide, and expects more than 300,000 employees in the U.S. by the end of 2019.

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