Upskilling 2025 is Amazon’s commitment to invest $700 million to train 100,000 Amazon employees in the U.S. for high-demand jobs. Since announcing the commitment in 2019, we have been delivering on our promise and seeing results in many of our programs. In the first year of our pledge, more than 15,000 Amazon employees have enrolled in one of the many company-subsidized upskilling initiatives, designed to train them in skills for higher-paying, in-demand jobs either at Amazon or elsewhere.
Our vision of providing employees with free skills training so they can reimagine their career while working at Amazon has proven even more relevant during the pandemic. COVID-19 has shown how entire industries can be disrupted almost overnight–retail, travel, education, and more. Millions of people across the U.S. and around the world have been seriously impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic, with the need for skills training at an all-time high.
To encourage other employers and policymakers to invest in this area—which we believe is an essential element of any recovery plan in 2021—Amazon partnered with Accenture to produce new research that looks at how companies can build a more resilient workforce by investing in upskilling programs. The research finds that 33 million—or one in three low-income Americans—could transition into new, emerging jobs and earn a median wage of $35 per hour, if provided with the right upskilling training. This new study, titled “Upskilling for a Post-Pandemic Economy," analyzes more than 188 million job transitions completed in the U.S. and shows the increasing importance of acquiring technical and scientific skills to move into “opportunity jobs”–those with higher wages, accelerated growth, and less vulnerability to sudden disruptions like COVID-19. Jobs in education, healthcare, and IT currently offer the greatest opportunity for upward career mobility, with programming, operations analysis, and science being the skills showing the strongest correlation with median wage increases.
The study also finds that while 66% of workers feel broadly supported by their employer, only half of those agree that their company provides them with additional training and skilling opportunities. Even fewer—one in four—report that their employer sponsors educational or outside training opportunities they want to pursue.
Over the years, we’ve learned that offering meaningful upskilling opportunities to our workforce is not only about making educational and training programs available to employees, but also about making it easy for them to enroll and be successful. The Accenture research shows that the biggest barriers for people participating in upskilling programs remain lack of access to transportation and childcare as well as constrained schedules—all of which are statistically correlated. They often overlap, creating a trifecta of daily life difficulties for workers.
Our upskilling opportunities have become a key component of attracting and retaining great talent. Amazon offers competitive pay—our minimum wage is more than double the federal minimum wage—and industry-leading benefits from the first day on the job, including healthcare coverage, 401(k) matching, and up to 20 weeks of parental leave. On top of that, Amazon offers free skills training opportunities designed to move people to higher-paying jobs within their communities. With the disruption that COVID-19 has driven for many industries, workers realize the importance of gaining new technical skills that will better protect them during the next economic disruption. We are already seeing how candidates are looking for upskilling as an employee benefit.
Looking ahead to 2021, we’ll likely see more companies prioritize formal upskilling programs for their employees. Employers will be investing much more in this area by creating on-site classrooms, offering dedicated working hours for training and development programs, paying for tuition and other higher education costs, or providing career-coaching support beyond formal educational curriculum.
Our commitment: Upskilling 2025
We are on track to deliver on our pledge to upskill 100,000 Amazon employees in the U.S. by 2025.
Career Choice is the most popular upskilling program among Amazon employees, with underrepresented minorities making up 58 percent of total participants. In the first year of the commitment, Amazon invested over $20 million in tuition costs through this program, paying for employees to attend classes with more than 100 educational partners across the country. Employees enrolled in this program can choose from more than 30 certifications globally that will lead them to higher-paying jobs in their local communities, with Amazon subsidizing courses that can help them transition to roles that pay at least 10 percent more than Amazon’s $15 per hour starting wage and more than double the U.S. Federal Minimum Wage ($7.25 per hour).
Amazon’s internal upskilling programs have helped individuals like Jenna Wasserman, who started at Amazon as a program manager, and developed an interest in software engineering and coding. Knowing that she wanted to pursue a technical career path, Wasserman joined Amazon Technical Academy, a program that teaches coding to employees with no tech background and graduates them into software developer engineering roles in one year. Wasserman didn’t have to take a leave of absence to enroll in courses or leave Amazon just to get the role she desired.
Having completed ATA, Wasserman is now a software engineer at Amazon, where she uses machine learning technology to create new visual ways for customers to shop.