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Amazon to Retrain a Third of Its U.S. Workforce

11 July 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. plans to spend $700 million to retrain a third of its U.S. workforce, as technology threatens to upend the way many of its employees do their jobs.

The company announced Thursday that it will retrain 100,000 workers by 2025 by expanding existing training programs and rolling out new ones meant to help its employees move into more advanced jobs inside the company or find new careers outside of it. The training is voluntary, and most of the programs are free to employees, the company said.

“Technology is changing our society, and it’s certainly changing work,” said Jeff Wilke, chief executive of Amazon’s world-wide consumer business, adding that the initiative is meant to help workers “be prepared for the opportunities of the future.”

For example, hourly workers in fulfillment centers can retrain for IT support roles, such as managing the machines that operate throughout the facilities. Meanwhile, nontechnical corporate workers can spend several years retraining as software engineers without going back to college.

Amazon’s effort to upgrade the skills of its workforce is among the biggest corporate retraining initiatives announced, and breaks down to roughly $7,000 per worker.

. . . .

Amazon, like many corporations, has struggled to find an adequate number of technical employees, and the company is confident that more of its jobs will include a technical component in the future, Mr. Wilke said. The company has more than 20,000 open jobs in the U.S., more than half of them in Seattle.

. . . .

Amazon says it has made a series of moves in recent years to improve workers’ compensation and access to educational opportunities. Last year, the company raised the minimum wage it pays its U.S. employees to $15 an hour. The company had 630,600 full-time and part-time employees world-wide in the quarter ended March 31. It has about 275,000 full-time U.S. employees.

. . . .

Some of the programs offered by Amazon include more advanced training, such as its Machine Learning University, which will be open to thousands of software engineers with computer-science backgrounds to take graduate-level machine-learning skills courses without going back to college. Amazon employees, some of whom are former university professors, will teach the classes.

The training programs could help Amazon workers find jobs in different industries, the company said. The company is expanding a program for fulfillment-center employees called Amazon Career Choice. It pays 95% of an employee’s tuition and fees for certificates and degrees in high-demand fields such as nursing and aircraft mechanics, even though Amazon doesn’t offer employment in those fields.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

PG did a quick check and couldn’t find reports of any similar programs at Barnes & Noble or Penguin Random House.


12 Comments to “Amazon to Retrain a Third of Its U.S. Workforce”

  1. After seeing that Last Week Tonight segment about how workers in the fulfillment center are treated, $15 an hour ain’t nearly enough.

    • You do realize that ‘Last Week Tonight’ is entertainment and not always leading with any facts – right?

      And unless one has actually had to run to find/place products (I did decades ago) one can’t really tell if their fulfillment centers are any better or worse than those run by other companies doing the same thing (a bum knee and age means I won’t be trying Amazon’s warehouse, but it’s funny how no one has shown us how much better other company’s fulfillment centers are …)

    • I would suggest that you go off and watch a few episodes of “Dirty Jobs” – and then come back and tell us what a horrible life an Amazon warehouse worker has.

      A life that Amazon encourages those employees to leave – those who want to move up (or out), and are willing to put in the work required.

      Although, those who take advantage of Jeff’s money to go into nursing may find themselves soon back at the warehouse door, seeing if their old easy job is still available.

    • The MINIMUM they are paid is $16 an hour and it goes up from there. Those are wages that most in their educational brackets would give their right arms for, but Amazon = bad.

      • People like to forget cost of living is not universal.
        Sales taxes, income taxes, rents, etc all vary by state and within States.

        What makes for a solid wage in Nashville won’t get you a anywhere in San Francisco or Brooklyn.

        It should be noted that the bulk of the complaints about entry level wages come from high tax states. Odd coincidence…

  2. This is smart thinking on Amazon’s part. It is way, way cheaper to hold on to a good employee than to find another. Once someone proves themselves capable of both working and learning, some training will allow them to fullfill a new job and the company saves thousands of dollars they would have to spend finding and hiring someone who is not already working for Amazon.

    • A way out of low-status and low-wage jobs? Retraining on the company dollar? A small commitment (5%) of your own money instead of massive student debt?

      Amazon is such a bad company. I’d give my eyeteeth for those opportunities if I needed them.

      • Terrence OBrien

        There are lots of companies that offer similar programs, and Amazon’s is as good as the best of the rest. UPS and Fedex do something similar.

        The US GI Bill is in the same category. That put me through undergrad and grad school. I made more from the GI Bill than I was ever paid while on active duty. When you put pencil to paper, the Amazon wage can be far more than $15.

      • Alicia…I fully agree.


    • Would be smart of them, but as a former employee of Amazon, I can tell you first hand that is not what they do at all. Once they use you for long enough, they find ridiculous things to write you up for and get you out the door asap. Make no mistake this place is in it for corporate interest alone, keeping people unhappy inside the warehouse is literally in their best interest by constant employee turnover, keeping the environment hostile, and churning employees in and out like a meat grinder. These programs they offer are considered part of your earnings, keeping corporate tax loopholes wide open. Make no mistake, no matter what your hourly wage may be, all the profit rolls uphill and once you do begin to climb the ladder it is literally common practice for those above you to stay paranoid about your rise and do everything they can to keep you miserable and ready to quit. I understand what your thinking about it is, but the reality is the exact opposite. Easier to replace you with a new 15 dollar an hour employee than to give you a raise and keep you around. Then you start to see the wizard behind the curtain and realize the pyramid scheme you’ve been working for all along. Plus, once you’re fired, unemployment benefits are disapproved no matter what, you’re barred from working for Amazon for an entire year, if ever again, and you may as well come from another state if you want to go into management of any kind because you’re not gonna be promoted from within. Still sounding all roses and sunshine?

  3. Terrence OBrien

    PG did a quick check and couldn’t find reports of any similar programs at Barnes & Noble or Penguin Random House.

    You don’t retrain the arts.

    • “You don’t retrain the arts.”

      I’ve noticed quite a few artist that started with pencil and paper moving to digital sketchpads, so some are re-trainable …

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