The Upskill Battle: Why Amazon and Other Big Companies are
Struggling to Retrain Employees for Technology Jobs of the Future


John Pavley (SVP of Software Engineering, Viacom)

Presentation Topic: An overview and analysis of Amazon's new Upskill 2025 initiative through the lense of Diversity & Inclusion and what it will mean for non-technical employees to to upskill to technology jobs.

Leslie Short (Founder-President-CEO, The Cavu Group)

Presentation Topic:  The importance of making workplace culture the foundation of technology training and upskilling and how leadership needs to rethink corporate culture to be substantively inclusive.

Lauren Weber (Journalist, The Wall Street Journal)

Presentation Topic:  Why Companies Are Failing at Reskilling (her article including recent data and analysis on the US job market). In a tight labor market, employers from Amazon to JPMorgan are trying to get better at retraining the workers they have.


"Thousands of companies across the country are in the thick of a digital revolution that requires them to transform their operations. They need an employee base that’s ready to do new kinds of work, filling roles that are just emerging and adapting existing jobs to integrate more data and automation. Employers are still trying to master the challenge of mapping the skills of their current workers, identifying the skills required of their future workforce and filling the gaps between the two. By the time many companies figure out exactly who they need, it’s often too late to invest the necessary time and money into retraining... A recent Accenture survey of 1,200 executives found that, while nearly half say skill shortages are a major concern for the future of their firm, only 3% said they will significantly increase their training budgets over the next three years." -- Lauren Weber (Why Companies Are Failing at Reskilling, The Wall Street Journal)

What's Wrong with America's Workforce Development and Employment System?

  • Workers need to re-skill but have no clear path forward
  • Workers do not have equal access to training
  • Workers face less stability and more risk (freelance, the gig economy, looming recession)
  • Employers struggle to find workers with "21st-century skills"
  • Educational institutions are slow to change and can't keep up with the accelerating change of technology and business models
  • Useful information is hard to access (The right information from employers and training institutions isn't always shared or is outdated by the time it reaches those who need it)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well underway and big companies like Amazon, PwC, Accenture and Walmart (to name a few) are leading the charge by investing billions of dollars to upskill, reskill, and cross-skill their workforce in emerging technologies that are disrupting products, services, customer engagement and back-office operations. And, as AI and automation technologies develop exponentially, and quickly take over tasks and jobs once done by humans, the problem of upskilling becomes even more challenging and pressing!

With thought-leader guest speakers Lauren Weber (Reporter, The Wall Street Journal), John Pavley (Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Viacom), and Leslie Short (President and CEO, The Cavu Group), we will explore this topic and its implications on companies (enterprise down to startups), employees, and society at large.





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