Tech

Amazon plans to spend $700 million to retrain a third of its US workforce in new skills

Key Points
  • Amazon.com unveiled plans to retrain a third of its U.S. workforce — or 100,000 workers — by 2025 to help its employees move into more advanced jobs or find new careers.
  • The retail and tech giant intends to expand its existing training programs and introduce new ones. The training will be voluntary, and most of the programs are free.
  • The planned program is among the biggest corporate retraining initiatives ever announced, at a cost of roughly $7,000 per worker, or $700 million.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin speaks during the JFK Space Summit, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, June 19, 2019.
Katherine Taylor | Reuters

Amazon.com on Thursday unveiled plans to retrain a third of its U.S. workforce — or 100,000 workers — by 2025 to help its employees move into more advanced jobs or find new careers.

The retail and tech giant intends to expand its existing training programs and introduce new ones. The training will be voluntary, and most of the programs are free.

Programs will help workers "access training to move into highly skilled technical and non- technical roles across the company's corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network, or pursue career paths outside of Amazon," the company said in a statement.

Amazon's retraining programs will include:

  • Amazon Technical Academy, which equips non-technical employees with the skills to transition into software engineering careers;
  • Associate2Tech, which trains fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles;
  • Machine Learning University, which offers employees with tech backgrounds the opportunity to access machine learning skills;
  • Amazon Career Choice, a pre-paid tuition program designed to train fulfillment center associates in high-demand occupations of their choice;
  • Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon; and
  • AWS Training and Certification, which provide employees with courses to build practical AWS Cloud knowledge.

The planned program is among the biggest corporate retraining initiatives ever announced, at a cost of roughly $7,000 per worker, or $700 million.

Amazon and other companies have struggled to find technically qualified U.S. employees. More advanced training for workers hired to work in Amazon warehouses is occurring in an increasingly competitive environment with the unemployment rate hovering below 4%.

Major retailers like Walmart and Target have been raising pay and boosting training to lure more quality employees and to make the experience in stores less stressful.

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While customers are less likely to come face to face with an Amazon worker, the company can improve the experience of shopping online with a staff that is more technically savvy.

Amazon.com Inc. has also faced criticism from labor groups and some politicians, including presidential candidates, over what they see as substandard working conditions. Providing an avenue for low-skilled workers to advance within the company, or outside of it, could reshape the narrative for Amazon.

"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 of 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. With this pledge, we're committing to support 100,000 Amazonians in getting the skills to make the next step in their careers."

The Seattle company said Thursday that its U.S. workforce will hit 300,000 this year. It has more than 630,000 employees worldwide.

Amazon, using its own employment data, said 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.

Amazon shares are up 34% this year and are among the top performers in the 5-year run by the S&P 500 to 3,000 from 2,000.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the company's retraining program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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