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July 15, 2022updated 13 Oct 2022 1:17pm

Amazon’s UK headcount growth continues with 4,000 new jobs

Amazon says it will create more tech jobs in Edinburgh and Cambridge but risks taking digital talent away from other smaller businesses.

By Sophia Waterfield

Amazon is adding another 4,000 jobs in the UK this year, the company said this week, including a number of new technology roles. The news marks the continued expansion of the ecommerce giant’s UK headcount: last year, it announced plans to create 10,000 new jobs, and overshot this figure by 15,000.

The planned expansion, which follows similar announcements by Accenture, BT and KPMG, comes amid a digital skills shortage in the UK. Employers in other sectors have been adversely affected by Amazon’s rapid hiring, while in the US, the company fears it may run out of staff to hire.

However, Amazon has also pledged to train employees, especially those who wish to pursue technology careers.

Amazon is planning to make data scientist and tech hires in Cambridge and Edinburgh. (Photo by stockcam/iStock)

Amazon’s plan to create 4,000 new jobs will bring its total UK workforce to 75,000, making it one of the ten largest private sector employers in the country. This will include warehouse staff as well as technology roles, the company said, such as data scientist jobs in Edinburgh and Cambridge.

“We’re continuing to invest in talent right across the UK, from apprentices in Swansea to data scientists in Edinburgh,” John Boumphrey, Amazon UK country manager said in a statement.

The announcement follows a pledge to create 10,000 news jobs last year. In February, it was reported that the company had overshot this target by 15,000 and in fact added 25,000 new roles in 2021 to meet demand spurred by the pandemic.

Amazon is the latest in a string of private sector employers pledging to increase their technology headcount. Earlier this week, BT announced that it was going to make 2,800 additional hires by 2024 to help accelerate its own digital transformation, while consultancies KPMG and Accenture have made similar commitments in the last year.

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Will Amazon’s hiring spree affect the UK digital skills crisis?

The UK is in the depths of a technology talent shortage, however. This week, a spokesperson for Tech Nation, the UK’s start-up development agency, told the BBC that this shortage threatens to “stifle” growth in UK’s technology sector.

The number of unfilled technology roles in the UK is piling up, says Paul Lewis, chief customer officer at job search engine Adzuna, even though salaries have increased 5% since last year. “A lack of tech talent means job vacancies have been lying open for longer and accumulating,” he said.

“Digital job creation across the economy continues to outstrip the supply of digital skills,” Antony Walker, deputy CEO of technology trade body techUK, told Tech Monitor. “We see no signs of the demand for digital skills slowing down.”

Could Amazon’s continued expansion make this talent shortage worse? The company’s appetite for staff has already impacted other employers. Last year, Heathrow Airport CEO told Bloomberg News that many of its staff were being recruited by Amazon, including customer service employees and engineers. At the time, Amazon was offering joining bonuses of up to £3,000 to secure staff ahead of the Christmas rush.

In the US, meanwhile, an internal Amazon memo warned that the company could run out of staff to employ, given its high rate of employee turnover. “If we continue business as usual, Amazon will deplete the available labour supply in the US network by 2024,” the memo said.

The digital skills shortage has prompted many employers to take matters into their own hands, says techUK’s Walker. “Many new routes are opening up into the sector with companies providing apprenticeships and short courses that are more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds.”

Amazon is among the companies pledging to support this digital upskilling effort. Last year, when Amazon announced its 10,000 new UK jobs, the company said it would also invest £10m in training 5,000 existing employees so they can pursue a career outside the company.

Whether it trains as many people as it hires, however, remains to be seen.

Amazon’s impact on the UK workforce

Amazon also said today that it supports 410,000 additional jobs in the UK. This includes 250,000 workers employed by the 85,000 small and medium-sized businesses which sell on Amazon in the UK, and “more than 160,000 jobs supported in Amazon’s supply chain”.

However, Amazon is currently under investigation by the UK’s Competition and Market Authority. The investigation will consider whether Amazon is abusing its market dominance “by giving an unfair advantage to its own retail business or sellers that use its [fulfilment] services, compared to other third-party sellers on the Amazon UK Marketplace”, the CMA said.

The quality of work at Amazon has also been questioned. According to a report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and Jobs with Justice, Amazon’s fulfilment facilities offer “unreliable employment” for its employees. The ILSR says that Amazon is known for hiring through staffing agencies which allow the tech giant to avoid liability for unsafe or unfair working conditions.

On employer review site Glassdoor, Amazon has a relatively high 4 out of 5 score from employees in the UK. However, some reviews report that they struggled with work-life balance, long hours and a lack of transparency leading to termination of contracts.

Read more: CMA takes on Amazon and Microsoft over anti-competition concerns

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