Amazon invests $700 million to retrain a third of its US workforce by 2025

Amazon announced this morning a plan to invest more than $700 million to retrain workers across the U.S. to allow them to move into skilled technical and non-technical roles across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores and transportation network. The company’s goal is to “upskill” 100,000 of its U.S. employees for more in-demand jobs by 2025 — or, one in three of Amazon’s U.S. workers.

In particular, Amazon has its eye on job roles like data mapping specialist, data scientist, solutions architect and business analyst, as well as logistics coordinator, process improvement manager and transportation specialist, it says. Based on a review of its workforce and U.S. hiring, these are the fastest-growing highly skilled jobs over the past five years.

For example, data mapping specialists have seen job growth of 832% in the past five years, based on Amazon’s own data, while data scientists jobs grew 505%, solutions architect grew 454%, security engineer jobs grew 229% and business analyst jobs grew 160%. Meanwhile, the highly skilled job roles in customer fulfillment have grown by 400%.

Amazon’s U.S. workforce is expected to reach 300,000 employees this year, and it will reach 630,000 employees worldwide.

The retraining investment breaks down to around $7,000 per worker, and is one the largest corporate retraining programs to date.

The funding will be distributed across a range of programs, including both existing programs and new initiatives. It also will be focused on training people both with and without existing technical backgrounds.

These programs include the new Amazon Technical Academy, which will train non-technical Amazon employees with skills that allow them to transition to software and engineering careers; the new Associate2Tech program that will train fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles; and the new Machine Learning University, to train those with a tech background to branch into machine learning.

Amazon will also expand its Career Choice program, launched in 2012, which offers pre-paid tuition to fulfillment center associates who want to move into high-demand jobs; plus Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor certified program offering paid classroom training and on the job apprenticeships with Amazon; and its AWS Training and Certification programs focused on closing the skills gap.

“Through our continued investment in local communities in more than 40 states across the country, we have created tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. in the past year alone,” said Beth Galetti, senior vice president, HR, in a statement released this morning. “For us, creating these opportunities is just the beginning. While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a stepping stone to different aspirations. We think it’s important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves. With this pledge, we’re committing to support 100,000 Amazonians in getting the skills to make the next step in their careers,” she added.

The investment follows Amazon’s raising of its minimum wage to $15 for all U.S. employees last year, after the retailer was increasingly under attack for how its workers were treated and paid. Senator Bernie Sanders, in particular, had called out Amazon for engaging in “corporate welfare,” noting that Amazon wages were so low that workers couldn’t take care of their families — meaning thousands were on government subsidy programs, like food stamps.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos later challenged other retailers to follow his lead, and raise their minimum wages too. But that’s easier said than done, as Amazon is so far ahead that its nearest e-commerce competitor, Walmart, is losing $1 billion this year on its e-commerce division as it tries to catch up.

The news also comes at a time when the role of technology’s impact on jobs is starting to take shape. As warehouses become more automated and jobs, overall, become more technology-dependent, it makes sense that Amazon would want to look internally to fill these new roles.