Amazon badly wants to cut shipping times so it can compete with brick-and-mortar retailers. In order to do that, it needs to get more fulfillment centers up and running in more locations. So, to entice warehouse workers, the company went on a recruitment drive on its website and debuted a new employee benefit called the Amazon Career Choice Program.
In a nutshell, the program will pony up $8,000 over four years so workers can take technical and vocational courses — no, not “How to Lift With Your Knees 101” or “Forklift Theory and Practice,” but advanced, career-furthering subjects like engineering, IT, transportation and accounting. To qualify, hourly full-timers in the U.S. need to have at least three years at the company.
Sounds great, but it could still be a hard sell, notes Caris & Company analyst Scott Tilghman. When Amazon bought Kiva Systems recently, it basically sent the message that it’s interested in robots — specifically the company’s automated workforce that can take on some of the jobs in fulfillment centers. Given that, who’d want to sign up for a gig that they aren’t sure will last?
Turns out, could be quite a few. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness is up in 27 states, and payroll jobs are down in 21 states. And the official poverty rate, which was 15.1 percent two years ago, is expected to go as high as 15.7 percent. That’s an awful lot of potential job applicants who’d be willing to take on any job, courses or no. And even if they do get laid off, employees would presumably have much better job prospects after they’re done with the program.
Would you take a job that could be replaced by robots in the near future?