On Thursday, Amazon announced that it intends to spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 members of its workforce. In a press release, the corporation noted that its initiative would provide one-third of its U.S. staff with new skills. Furthermore, the firm explained that the program would be available to select employees across all its departments.
Amazon explained that its “Upskilling 2025” initiative would provide employees with the necessary training to assume more skilled positions in the future. After conducting a review of its operations, the company discovered it required additional support in several key areas. Consequently, the corporation decided to retrain one-third of its existing workforce.
The Big Tech firm intends for its re-tasked employees to serve as business analysts, data mapping experts, data scientists, logistics coordinators, process improvement managers, security engineers, solutions architects, and transportation specialists.
Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is offering educational opportunities in skillsets that aren’t relevant to its operations. Fields of study include nursing and aircraft repair. Studies have shown that job training programs drive employee satisfaction. As such, The Seattle-based company’s training program might help improve its sometimes contentious relationship with its workforce.
Amazon also revealed it’s launching a new software engineering academy, machine learning initiative, and information technology certification program as part of Upskilling 2025.
Managing the Impact of Technological Unemployment
It’s worth noting that the tech corporation isn’t launching a massive retraining program only to improve its core competencies.
Currently, Amazon employs more than 600,000 people worldwide; 300,000 of which work in the United States. However, the corporation has spent the last several years integrating various automated solutions into its operations.
For example, in 2012, the firm spent $775 million to acquire a robotic startup called Kiva Systems. Using its innovations, the online retailer brought more than 100,000 robots into its supply chain. In April, the corporation purchased a warehouse robotics startup called Canvas Technologies to acquire its autonomous fulfillment center innovations.
One month later, the firm contracted an Italian firm called CMC Srl to bring its ultra-efficient packing machines into its warehouses. Moreover, in June, The Burn-In reported Amazon digitally recreated a small Washington town to virtually train its self-driving delivery robots.
By implementing all of these automated solutions, Amazon saves billions of dollars in overhead. Indeed, the New York Times noted that the corporation must strictly control its payroll costs to optimize its profitability. However, in becoming an early adopter of enterprise robotics, the company has become a significant driver of technological unemployment.
While that phenomenon is good for corporations, it’s terrible for unskilled laborers. So, to avoid the massive public backlash that would follow mass layoffs, Amazon is acting to make its human employees more integral to its operations. By not just dumping thousands of unprepared people back into the labor market, the company’s approach toward technology-driven redundancies is laudable.
However, Amazon’s new retraining announcement does pose one important question. Once its supply chain has become mostly automated, and Upskilled 2025 is complete, what happens to the company’s other 500,000 employees?