The Risks and Rewards of Amazon’s Employee Retraining Program

 

On what seems like monthly basis, Amazon.com Inc. seems to be investing in a new industry, company or product. Its most recent investment, however, may prove to be its best one yet, even if it does not result in a monumental profit.

The company announced this month that it will retrain more than 100,000 of it’s U.S.-based workers in an effort to better prepare them and the company for the future. The upskilling program is a $700 million investment over a six-year span. This amounts to an approximate investment of $1,200 per year on each of the 100,000 employees, a number that is about one-third of its total American workforce.

A tightening labor market, an increase in automation and high profitability allows companies of this size to invest more in their workforce, even if it comes at the expense of profits. The Amazon program does not require employees to stay at the company, and the retailer is training some of its workforce in roles that the company currently does not offer employment in.

“What Amazon looks like it’s betting on is that they will be able to provide enough of a desirable workforce that these workers will by and large stay with Amazon, and put these new skills to use,” University of Washington Associate Professor of Economics Rachel Heath said.

The roles Amazon is training its employees for are based on data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the most rapidly-hiring fields in the U.S. These include data science, data mapping and security engineering roles among others.

The move coincides with similar initiatives started by industry leaders like Walmart, JP Morgan, Accenture and AT&T.

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