Is the light at the end of the tunnel oncoming retraining?
In the face of ‘robots will steal our jobs’ doom and gloom, it was refreshing last week to see Amazon talk about spending $700m on retraining its staff.
[Amazon] is increasingly turning to robots and other technology in its warehouses, where it employs the majority of its 630,000 full and part-time workers around the world. This has raised fears among some workers and critics of the company that lower-skilled jobs will no longer be done by humans. The new initiative aims to retrain 100,000 workers, or a third of its US workforce, by 2025, for higher-skilled jobs, from technical roles in IT and software engineering to other high-demand occupations such as nursing and logistics.
However, it turns out that’s less than most companies spend per employee per year on training. As Eric Newcomer writes for Bloomberg
Amazon said it’ll spend about $700 million on development for 100,000 employees by 2025. That’s $1,077 a person annually. According to one estimate from the Association for Talent Development, a trade group, the average organization spends $1,296 per employee annually on training. Well, you’ve got to admire Amazon’s commitment to undercutting the competition.
So, some big questions remain. If Amazon is going to turn warehouse operatives into engineers, can that be done for $1,077 each? The company needs to explain more about its plans lest this look like a glossy press release without much substance behind it.
Increasing automation will become a necessity for businesses in many industries, simply to keep up with the competition. It’s easy to imagine governments around the world mandating employee retraining schemes as a result.
So, while Amazon may have got a round of positive press from an press release without perhaps not a lot of weight behind it, these kinds of announcements are likely to become more frequent — and more substantial — as time goes on.