Now, we’re not ones to sound alarmist, but the fact remains that in today’s digital world, skills that were once highly regarded are now out-dated and unnecessary.
What would once have seen you ascend the corporate ladder with the ease and swiftness of a ball boy on centre court now barely holds any gravity in the workplace. Machines have reduced us to mere pawns and as technological innovation continues at a staggering rate, our uselessness – for want of a better word – only seems to be exacerbated.
It all began simply enough, with self-serve checkouts and automatic toll payments. But these aids in daily efficiency then moved into the workplace, with innovative programs and tech products saving time, energy, and labour cost. It’s the reason children now learn how to code in school, and why employees now have to play catch-up with technology in an effort to survive. It’s also the reason why Amazon has announced plans to spend $700 million on training programmes for 100,000 employees – about a third of its workforce.
Any company that hopes to make a profit will invest in training its employees, something that takes both time and resources (read: money). But for Amazon, that isn’t enough. The retail giant doesn’t just want you to know its staff are trained, it wants you to know how much it’s spending on the training, too.
As Bloomberg reports, this is how Amazon’s workforce training plays out by the numbers: “It’ll spend $700 million on development for 100,000 employees by 2025. That’s $1077 a person annually. According to one estimate from the Association for Talent Development, a trade group, the average organisation spends $1296 per employee annually on training.”
Beth Galetti, senior vice president of human resources for Amazon, said in a statement: “We think it’s important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves.”
But just what exactly does this “upskilling” entail?
Some of the programs include the Amazon Technical Academy, Amazon Career Choice, Amazon Apprenticeship, AWS Training, Associate2Tech and, our personal favourite, Machine Learning University.
Sadly, we did have to do a quick Google to work out just what “machine learning” is (no, it’s not about learning about the many moods of your computer). For those interested in data science, machine learning has allowed for the development of services like Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Rekognition (image and video analysis), Amazon Transcribe (automatic speech recognition) Amazon Translate (neural machine translation) and Amazon Lex (chatbots).
According to the company, the training programme will help staff “move into more highly skilled roles within or outside Amazon.”
It’s a big step for Amazon, and one that is particularly focused on their development in the future. But as reflected in responses to the announcement, many have criticised Amazon for not focusing on current issues. Sure, automation is becoming increasingly common in the workplace, but debates over minimum wage have existed for decades and for Amazon, it could certainly afford to increase wages and improve working conditions.
With Amazon Prime Day on the horizon, workers in Minnesota are planning a six-hour work stoppage at one warehouse in protest of poor working conditions. Allegations suggest working for Amazon is quite the grind, particularly in warehouse jobs where workers allegedly had to urinate in trash cans to meet deadlines.
Yeah. We’d say fixing this issue should be the priority… the Machine Learning University can probably wait.