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Amazon must recycle one-third of its US workforce

Amazon.com Inc. plans to spend $ 700 million to reconvert one-third of its American workforce, with technology threatening to disrupt the way many of its employees do their work.

The company announced Thursday that it would recycle 100,000 workers by 2025 by expanding existing training programs and deploying new ones to help its employees access more advanced positions within the company. 39 or find new careers outside of it. Training is voluntary and most programs are free for employees, the company said.

"Technology is changing our society and its work as well," said Jeff Wilke, general manager of Amazon's global consumer sector, adding that this initiative was intended to help workers "prepare for the opportunities from the future".

For example, hourly employees in distribution centers can retrain for IT support roles, such as managing machines that work in all facilities. Meanwhile, non-technical enterprise workers can spend many years retraining as software engineers without returning to the university.


A worker assembles a box to be delivered to the Amazon Distribution Center in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, on April 30, 2019.

A worker assembles a box to be delivered to the Amazon Distribution Center in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, on April 30, 2019.

Amazon's efforts to improve the skills of its workforce are among the largest corporate retrofit initiatives announced at approximately $ 7,000 per worker.

In a time of historically low unemployment, coupled with rapid digital transformation requiring professional skills in the high-tech field, more and more US companies want to help existing employees transition to new roles. Many business retraining efforts are a challenge, as employers often have difficulty predicting the skills they will need even a few years in advance.

"The choice of winners means that you often pick losers," said Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown University's Center for Education and Workforce.

Amazon, like many companies, is struggling to find a sufficient number of technical employees, and the company is confident that more of its jobs will include a technical component in the future. Wilke. The company has more than 20,000 open jobs in the United States, more than half of them in Seattle.

Amazon has been criticized for its treatment of workers in recent years by groups of workers and legislators such as Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate, who tweeted in March that the company was due working conditions in its warehouses "and respect the right of workers to form a trade union.


Amazon said it has taken a series of measures in recent years to improve workers' compensation and access to education opportunities. Last year, the company raised the minimum wage it pays to US employees to $ 15 an hour. The company had 630,600 full-time and part-time employees worldwide during the quarter ended March 31. It has approximately 275,000 full-time employees in the United States.

Some of the programs offered by Amazon include more advanced courses, such as the Machine Learning University, which will be open to thousands of software engineers with computer training, who will be able to take postgraduate courses in machine learning without return to the university. Amazon employees, some of whom are former university professors, will teach the courses.

Training programs could help Amazon workers find jobs in different industries, the company said. The company is developing a program for employees of distribution centers called Amazon Career Choice. It pays 95% of an employee's tuition and fees for certificates and diplomas in areas of high demand, such as nursing and aircraft mechanics, even though Amazon does not offer a job these areas. The company plans to open 15 new career classrooms by 2020, along with the opening of new execution centers.

No training from Amazon states that employees remain within the company. But labor market experts say that recycling efforts do not always work because not everyone has the capacity or willingness to transform themselves to fit into a new role. Those who have studied training efforts say that skills training can improve employee morale and prevent them from leaving the company. The ability to retain talent is important because recruiting new employees and training them is expensive and time consuming, said Chris O'Leary, chief economist at W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a non-profit research center.

"If you can maintain stability, you reduce your costs," he said.

Click here to read more at The Wall Street Journal, where this story was first published.

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