Amazon recently announced an ambitious new plan for its workers—dedicate $700 million to technical retraining for 100,000 employees. This new investment will support career and technical education programs in software engineering, IT support, and other highly-skilled technology careers. As of now, Amazon is one of the largest employers in the United States, with over 300,000 workers on the payroll. Today, the company also has tens of thousands of unfilled skilled positions, most of which at their Seattle headquarters. This is an exciting time to be in the United States, as there are currently more open jobs than people to fill them. With such dynamics at play, the company decided there’s no better time for large-scale Amazon workforce retraining. Between now and 2025, Amazon intends to fundamentally transform about a third of its enormous workforce, resulting in thousands of new opportunities around the company.
New Education Programs
As a result of this tightening labor market, it’s unlikely that Amazon will find enough people to fill their highly-skilled positions.Thus, the company has decided to retrain its existing workforce to manage the demand, while robots begin to replace their original jobs. We’ll get into the robots later, but let’s first look at the statistics.
Amazon workforce retraining will take place at the Amazon Technical Academy in programs such as Associate2Tech. This 90-day program features several exciting career alternative options, including coding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence training. This program uses strategies from Amazon’s Career Choice program, which debuted in 2012.
As of 2019, 12,000 people have already benefited from the Career Choice program, which lays the groundwork for Amazon’s ambitious career transition plans. Experienced engineers will have the opportunity to attend Amazon’s Machine Learning Academy, which will further increase employee access to specialized high-tech training. Amazon’s workforce retraining program is one of the largest ever instituted.
Amazon Combats Automation Inequality
Now let’s get into the robots. The idea of automation has terrified the American people for decades, and now it’s finally coming to fruition at Amazon. The company plans to increase automation efforts for unskilled tasks, including packing at their many warehouse facilities. The looming threat of automation threatens job security for thousands of Amazon workers, but the company’s proactive approach plans to mitigate the damage (and also do some good).
Instead of throwing their employees away, Amazon now offers them the opportunity to retrain for other positions in the company. Overall, what Amazon is doing here reaches beyond company morale—if other companies adopt Amazon’s workforce retraining strategy, it can help prevent the disastrous results of automation. Instead of increasing inequality when workers lose their jobs, this program will increase their earning potential and (in many cases) secure them a new job. Also, these programs can even train workers to maintain and build the very machines that initially replaced them, resulting in higher salaries and increased long-term job security.
Speaking of employees—Amazon has received a lot of negative press in the last few years due to stories of poor working conditions. Additionally, overall employee treatment is reportedly pretty bad, so Amazon workforce retraining is likely an attempt to make amends to their massive workforce. This time, Amazon really put its money where its mouth is, as $700 million is a significant investment. The company aims to spend nearly $10,000 per person on career education, which is right around what they’d pay at many other career training programs.
Today, morale at Amazon is relatively low, with many workers reporting a generally negative outlook on work. Hopefully, with new career opportunities (courtesy of Amazon workforce retraining), worker sentiments will improve.
We’ll have to wait to see how effective this program will be. From what we understand about this new investment, Amazon’s hopes are high—but it would be useless to speculate about this particular program any further. The future of education must reflect the changes in American labor, as it’s increasingly sensible to pursue alternative education in this rapidly-changing economy.
We’ve seen the success of other technical training programs such as coding bootcamps, so it’s really no surprise that Amazon’s workforce retraining program chose to go this route. The truth is, it doesn’t take that long to train people to work in this growing tech economy, especially if they’re motivated to pursue a new career. Only time will tell how well Amazon’s workforce retraining works, but we’re excited to see the company make such a bold investment for their workers.