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Amazon to spend $700 million retraining a third of its US workforce by 2025

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Retraining as the specter of automation looms

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon has announced that it will spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 of its US employees by 2025, a move meant to help them pursue new paths at the company. The figure amounts to spending around $7,000 per employee on roughly a third of its workforce in the US. Amazon says the training schemes will be offered to employees across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and the transportation network. For example, workers in fulfillment centers could be retrained as IT support technicians, and nontechnical corporate workers could receive training in software engineering, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The announcement comes as Amazon faces sustained criticism over its working conditions, particularly in its warehouses where employees are automatically tracked and fired to hit productivity targets. In less than a week’s time, Amazon workers in the company’s Shakopee, Minnesota, warehouse are planning a strike to coincide with the company’s annual Prime Day sale. Last year, Amazon warehouse workers conducted similar strikes across Europe.

The training schemes are Amazon’s latest attempt to prove that it’s taking care of its workers. Last year, the company increased the minimum wage in the US to $15 an hour and challenged its rivals to do the same. However, as the specter of automation looms over the industry, many of these jobs could one day disappear, even if fully automated warehouses are unlikely to be viable within the next decade.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, it can be very hard for companies to know which skills will be in demand in the future. Amazon’s response is that it’s built its retraining programs around insights into its own workforce, which suggest that the fastest-growing jobs areas include data mapping specialists, data scientists, solutions architects, and security engineers. The WSJ notes that Amazon is struggling to find employees for its more technical roles, with 20,000 job opportunities currently open across the country.

Interestingly, Amazon’s retraining programs will not just include skills that are useful within the company, but they will also cover areas such as nursing and aircraft mechanics, according to The Wall Street Journal. None of the training programs will require employees to commit to staying at Amazon, but research suggests that training schemes can boost morale and may mean that employees are less likely to leave a company anyway.