Amazon's offer to employees: Learn coding, tech background not required

Andrew Cummings
July 12, 2019

Inc. (AMZN.O) said it will spend US$700 million to retrain about one-third of its USA workforce in skills needed to thrive in the new economy.

Amazon said its employees would be offered training for positions as mapping specialists, data scientists, business analysts, logistics coordinators and other roles within the company.

In the tightest labor market in a half-century, Amazon is competing with other companies to hire the best and brightest and could help sidestep that challenge with a renewed emphasis on training.

Much of the training Amazon will offer is free, which is significant considering about two-thirds of the Americans surveyed said cost is a leading barrier to obtaining new skills. Meanwhile, nontechnical corporate workers can spend several years retraining as software engineers without going back to college.

Recently, the company's plan to spend $800 million to speed up deliveries for Prime members sparked tension between the company and the leader of a major workers' union.


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.

The Seattle company said Thursday that its US workforce will hit 300,000 this year.

"The game of picking winners means you often pick losers", said Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The company has more than 20,000 open jobs in the US, more than half of them in Seattle.

Inc. has also faced criticism from labor groups and some politicians, including presidential candidates, over what they see as substandard working conditions.

In this file photo taken on February 5, 2019 a woman works at a packing station at the 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York.


Amazon raised its minimum wage for USA workers to $15 an hour a year ago. The company had 630,600 full-time and part-time employees world-wide in the quarter ended March 31. Amazon employees in the USA are not unionized.

The company's new training will include tech training for even non-tech "Amazonians" who want to learn software engineering, IT training, robotics, cloud computing and machine learning.

Arran Stewart, chief visionary officer of Job.com, praised Amazon's decision to heavily invest in employee training.

The kicker: Amazon's retraining aims to both improve skills for workers looking to climb the company's ranks and for those hoping to launch new careers outside Amazon's ecosystem.

The company said it was expanding Career Choice saying it will pay up to 95 percent of an employee's tuition and fees towards a certificate or diploma in their chosen field of study. As part of its AmazonCareerchoice expansion, the company is building additional classrooms in its fulfillment centers globally, and expects to have over 60 on-site classrooms by the end of 2020.


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