If you haven't heard, there's a good chance just about every manual laborer in America could be replaced by robots sooner or later.
Silicon Valley is quickly developing new machines with the physical abilities and artificial intelligence to do many of the repetitive jobs Americans hold today. It's called automation, and it's already replacing human workers in industries from manufacturing to fast food to long-haul trucking.
That's why Amazon's announcement that it will create 100,000 U.S. jobs is so significant.
Whether or not president-elect Donald Trump had anything to do with creating these jobs, which his team is attempting to take credit for, these jobs are the epitome of what blue-collar workers should be looking for in 2017. That's because Amazon offers a crucial benefit called "Career Choice."
"Amazon's Career Choice program helps train employees for in-demand jobs at Amazon and other companies so that they can take full advantage of the nation's innovation economy," Amazon said in its announcement of the jobs on Thursday. "The program prepays 95 percent of tuition for courses in in-demand, high-wage fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a future career at Amazon."
In short, Amazon will be paying these workers for jobs all while they train for other professions that are not at the mercy of automation. Many of these jobs will be at Amazon's various "fulfillment centers," meaning the company's warehouses, and in all likelihood, they will eventually go away. But in the meantime, workers who take advantage of the jobs' perks will better prepare themselves for future employment, getting ahead of the threat of automation.
Amazon declined to say specifically how many of the 100,000 jobs will carry the Career Choice, but the company did tell Inc. many of the hourly associates at its fulfillment centers "are eligible for the Career Choice program and have access to dedicated onsite classrooms."
If you're a blue-collar worker on the job hunt today, this is exactly the type of benefit you should be looking for, because soon many manual jobs will evaporate.
Just look at Uber. For all the jobs the San Francisco company claims to have created, it is actively working to destroy them with self-driving cars. Or check out Zume Pizza in Mountain View, California. The whole premise of this company is to keep costs down by running most of its shops with machines that are capable of cooking.
So far, it doesn't seem that many Amazon warehouse workers have taken advantage of the benefit: Only 9,000 of Amazon's existing 180,000 employees have taken courses through Career Choice. But by creating this kind of benefit, Amazon is being socially conscious. It is creating an opportunity for blue-collar workers to earn a paycheck today while preparing for tomorrow.
And it may be setting a new standard for how companies can guide their workers through the wrenching transitions the labor force will face in coming years. Amazon says it has open-sourced everything it's doing around worker retraining and "is reaching out to companies to help them copy and adopt their own Career Choice programs."
Interested companies are encouraged to get in touch with Amazon.