Amazon has a new plan to "upskill" its workforce. And it's putting $700 million into that initiative to make it happen.

The tech giant on Thursday announced that its $700 million will be invested in "upskilling training programs" that will train a third of its U.S.-based employees on new skills. The company said in a press release that it ultimately hopes to move people to higher-paying and more mission-critical jobs in the company to facilitate its expected growth.

The move reflects a growing reality in the corporate world. The skills that had been required and necessary to run a business a decade ago are different than those required to run a business now and in the future. And even companies that aren't in the tech industry might quickly find themselves needing data scientists, engineers, or other technology experts to stay competitive.

For its part, Amazon has created its own programs to train its people. Those programs include certifications to move employees from non-technical positions to technical positions at Amazon. There's also an apprenticeship program certified by the Department of Labor and a Machine Learning University for helping Amazon's technical employees boost their artificial intelligence skills

Of course, many of those programs are very specific to Amazon and what those skills mean for the company. But there are clear trends there that you can glean for your own business.

An Opportunity to Poach Trained Employees

For one, Amazon seems committed to developing programs that actually benefit its company as a whole. But many of the skills that people will develop through its programs can (and likely will) be used elsewhere. After all, Amazon isn't the only company that needs software engineers.

Perhaps, then, there's a play for other businesses that don't want to invest in these programs. Simply wait for Amazon to train its people, start recruiting, and see if you can poach some of its talent to improve your own business.

Rely on Apprentices

But if it's programs you're after, Amazon has paved the way for a reasonable--and appealing--plan.

Apprenticeship programs are critical in any business. They allow for companies--especially companies with aging employees--to train the next generation of employees. And perhaps most importantly, they provide people with critical on-the-job training instead of some basic information in a classroom--or worse, a sink-or-swim scenario.

Consider bringing on apprentices and establishing processes for more-tenured employees to train new employees.

Machine Learning's Value

Machine learning is widely viewed by most industry watchers as a critical component in the future business world. If you're not integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning in some capacity now, you're behind.

Consider opening an Amazon-like program to get your people up to speed.

Perhaps most importantly, Amazon seems to firmly understand the importance of "upskilling." The company realizes that improving employee skills also means having the opportunity to up its game. A highly skilled workforce is one that can unlock potential. Amazon knows it. And you should keep that in mind, too.

So, Amazon appears to be on to something with its new $700 million initiative. And although it's spending that cash for its own benefit, there are real lessons to be learned for every company.

Chiefly, train your people, be willing to invest in them, and watch your business grow.

Published on: Jul 11, 2019
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