Amazon building

Amazon building

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, needing a more tech-savvy workforce, is offering to pay to retrain its employees and help them switch to more technical jobs at Amazon or elsewhere.

The online shopping giant said Thursday that it plans to spend $700 million by 2025 to retrain 100,000 workers, or a third of its U.S. workforce. It comes during a tight labor market, where it's getting harder for employers to find and keep workers. At the same time, advances in technology and robotics means some workers don't have the skills for new jobs.

The investment could also help Amazon.com Inc. tame criticism from labor groups and some politicians, including presidential candidates, who have pointed out poor working condition in Amazon warehouses where its orders are packed and shipped. Workers at a Minnesota facility plan to strike next week during the company's busy "Prime Day" shopping holiday, pushing Amazon for higher pay and better conditions. Late last year, Amazon raised the minimum wage for all its U.S. workers to at least $15 an hour.

Most of the in-house training will be free for Amazon employees, the company says. It will offer several programs, depending on skill and job level. A warehouse worker with no college degree, for example, could be trained to become an IT technician who keeps the computers and scanners in a warehouse running smoothly. More high-skilled workers, like those at its Seattle headquarters, could take software engineering classes that can help them switch careers at Amazon or another company.

"While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a stepping stone to different aspirations," said Beth Galetti, a senior vice president of human resources at Amazon. "We think it's important to invest in our employees, and to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves."

Major retailers like Walmart and Target have been raising pay and boosting training to lure and retain employees and give shoppers a better in-store experience. While customers are less likely to come face to face with an Amazon worker, the company said having better skilled talent can help it invent more products and make shopping more convenient for customers. Its Alexa voice assistant, for example, has been a hit for the company, allowing customers to reorder paper towels or play a song by talking to a voice-activated speaker.

Amazon said Thursday that it expects its total U.S. workforce to hit 300,000 this year. Worldwide, it has more than 630,000 employees, making it the second-biggest U.S.-based private employer after Walmart.

Amazon, using its own employment data, said its fastest growing skilled job positions over the last five years include data mapping, data science, security engineering and business analysis. There is also strong demand for workers skilled in logistics and transportation.

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AP Business Writer Michelle Chapman in Newark also contributed to this story.

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