Chelsea James grew up playing video games with her dad and brother, immersing herself in different worlds that challenged her assumptions. “I love playing different genres and challenging myself,” James says. “I just keep learning more about myself the more I play.”
That imaginary world is what inspired her to change her reality. James was working as a digital marketer at Amazon. She dreamed of one day creating her own video game. But game development requires technical training, which James didn’t have. Co-workers told her about Amazon Technical Academy, a company-paid, end-to-end learning and placement program designed to transition Amazon employees without software engineering backgrounds into technical roles within the company. Graduates of this program have gone from Digital Marketing Manager to Software Developer Engineer, for example.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are currently more job openings (7 million) than there are unemployed Americans (5.8 million). In looking at job growth over the next decade, the BLS anticipates some of the fastest-growing jobs will be in skilled areas, including software developers, medical assistants, statisticians, nurse practitioners and wind turbine service technicians. This represents an opportunity for anyone who cultivates more technical skills to move into higher-paying roles.
Tens of thousands of Amazon employees across Washington State are eligible for free, company-funded upskilling opportunities. “For us, creating these opportunities is just the beginning,” says Beth Galetti, senior vice president of human resources at Amazon. “While many of our employees want to build their careers here, for others it might be a steppingstone to different aspirations. We think it’s important to invest in our employees to help them gain new skills and create more professional options for themselves.”
Another Amazon program, Career Choice, pays up to 95% of tuition and fees toward a certificate of associate degree in fields ranging from IT, to computer science, to health care and transportation. The idea is to put people on a path toward in-demand professions, while making it easy on them by offering classes inside their workplace. In fact, more than 50 Amazon fulfillment centers, including in Washington State, have on-site classrooms dedicated to Career Choice.
One such worker is Cathryn Kachura, who was working as a part-time associate at Amazon’s sortation center near Denver. As she learned the business and grew in new roles, she learned of an opportunity to participate in a new robotics program at the sortation center.
She had no background in robotics, but she worked alongside Amazon robotics engineers for on-the-job training, bolstered by the leadership and problem-solving skills she’d honed in her previous roles.
“Now, I get to play with robots all day,” she says.
As one of the sortation center’s five flow-control specialists, a job that didn’t exist before, Kachura monitors the activity and traffic patterns of hundreds of robotic drive units. The robots ferry customer packages to designated spots where they’re slid down chutes before being sent out for delivery.
The American workforce is changing. There is a greater need for technical skills in the workplace than ever before. Understanding the impact of technology on the labor market highlights the need for both more technical skills and an always-learning mindset. Companies that want to hire, develop and retain the best talent will need to help workers hone their skills. In Seattle, that process is well underway.
Amazon’s $700 million Upskilling 2025 commitment will help upskill employees in our corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores and transportation network, providing access to skills needed for more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.