The big picture: Amazon is making a financial commitment to prepare its U.S. employees for a near future where everything in their workflow will be deeply disrupted by automation. It’s not too often that we see big tech dropping $700 million in anticipation for a different job landscape, both in their organizations and beyond.
The company recently announced it will spend the large sum to retrain 100,000 of its U.S. workers who account for almost a third of its local workforce. The investment is estimated to be among the biggest corporate retraining efforts in America and works out to $7,000 per worker.
Amazon says the initiative will distribute the funding to both technical and non-technical people from various departments across the company, such as tech hubs, retail stores, transportation network, corporate offices and fulfillment centers. It’s worth noting that Amazon will also train people who want to pursue career paths outside the company that will be a better fit for their talents, offering to cover as much as 95% of the cost of getting a certificate or diploma.
Today’s pledge is aptly called ‘Upskilling 2025’ and will offer non-technical workers paid-time off to study during the week at the Amazon Technical Academy if they wish to pursue software engineering careers. People with technical backgrounds can also take on machine learning and cloud engineering courses if they choose to do so.
Amazon is one of the big tech companies that has come under fierce scrutiny as of late, especially in terms of working conditions. Its most recent attempts at improving that by turning work at warehouses into a game raised some eyebrows, but people weren’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to compete with their co-workers on efficiency on an already exhausting job where they have to dodge robots.
It can be very hard even for big companies such as Amazon to anticipate what the job landscape is going to look like a few years from now. Amazon does have some insight into what is trending now, with positions such as data scientist, data mapping specialist, solution architect, business analyst and security engineer being the most popular among highly skilled roles.
Interestingly enough, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says “there are now more job openings (7.4 million) than there are unemployed Americans”. This means that in addition to boosting morale for all the workers that flocked to the company as a result of the recent minimum wage increase, Amazon’s move is also an attempt at attracting the best talent from that pool.