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Amazon announced on Thursday (11 July) its major corporate initiative “Upskilling 2025” in response to the growing threat of digital disruption. Within six years, more than US$700 million will be allocated to retrain its 100,000 employees in the United States, a third of its US workforce.
The training, which will be voluntary and mostly free, aims to help Amazon employees progress into more in-demand and technical positions within or outside of Amazon. Areas such as healthcare, machine learning, manufacturing, robotics, computer science and cloud computing are vastly encouraged.
“While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a stepping stone to different aspirations,” said Beth Galetti, a senior vice president in human resources at Amazon.
“We think it’s important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves.”
A warehouse worker with no college degree, for example, can be trained to become an IT technician who keeps the computers and scanners in a warehouse running smoothly.
Both Associate2Tech, a fully-paid 90-day certified programme and AWS Training and Certification, a programme that teaches employees about the cloud, give employees with non-technical backgrounds a kick-start to operate in a technical field.
More high-skilled workers, like those at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, can take software engineering classes at Amazon Technical Academy, an instructor-led and a project-based training and job placement programme developed by Amazon software engineers.
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s worldwide consumer CEO, highlighted their efforts to make the names of the programmes resemble those in grad schools, such as Machine Learning University and Amazon Technical Academy.
Machine Learning University, a six-week on-site training programme, gathers insights from more than 400 in-house machine learning scientists for employees with technical backgrounds. Amazon also aims to increase the quota of an existing training initiative Amazon Apprenticeship, which offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships within the company.
“We think we have the responsibility to help them acquire the skills that are going to be necessary as the world changes,” Wilke said.
The e-commerce giant also said having better skilled talent can help it invent more products like Alexa (a virtual assistant) and make shopping more convenient for customers. Amazon also expects its total US workforce to hit 300,000 this year. It currently has more than 630,000 employees globally.
Amazon’s own employment data shows that its fastest-growing skilled job positions over the last five years include data mapping, data science, security engineering and business analysis. There is also strong demand for workers skilled in logistics and transportation.