Amazon has increasingly turned to robots and automation technology to fetch products from the shelves of its warehouses to ship to customers. Now the company says it needs to help its workers adapt to the rapid change.
The e-commerce giant said on Thursday that it planned to spend $700 million to retrain a third of its workers in the United States, an acknowledgment that advances in technology are remaking the role of workers in nearly every industry.
Amazon said the program amounts to one of the world’s largest employee-retraining efforts. It will apply across the company, from corporate employees to warehouse workers. The company said about 100,000 workers would be retrained by 2025. Amazon has about 300,000 employees in the United States.
Even as Amazon is racing to fill thousands of high-skill jobs at its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere, the company is relying on technology that could threaten jobs performed by workers in the company’s warehouses, where automation already plays a central role; devices tell workers which direction to walk to pick up a package from a shelf.
The company is hungry for skilled workers. In November, Amazon selected Northern Virginia as the site of a second headquarters as part of an expansion effort to fill open roles near strategic partners. Executives said that the company needed to look beyond Seattle, its longtime home, to fill its need for talent.
Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of people operations, said the company had more than 20,000 open positions in the United States. She said the retraining initiative built on existing education programs at the company and