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Australia’s biggest supermarket chain Woolworths is investing more than A$50m in a fund to upskill, reskill and redeploy employees impacted by industry disruption and technological change over the next three years.
The fund will be used to build a new e-learning platform that will let employees access training, apprenticeship and mentoring support across Australia.
Technology skills that will be imparted under the fund include data analytics, machine learning and robotics, with further investment planned for advanced customer service skills, team leadership and agile ways of working.
Woolworths expects over 60,000 employees across its store and e-commerce operations, supply chain network and support offices to benefit from the new investment.
Those in supply chain functions, for example, will be able to take on technical and supervisory roles in robotics and automation in new distribution centres. The company will also hire and train thousands of new online team members to support the growth of its e-commerce operations.
“Around the globe, retail is changing at the fastest pace we’ve seen in many decades,” said Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci. “Technological advances in automation, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are making core retail processes much faster and more efficient than ever before.
“While these changes push our industry forward for the better, they’re also changing the nature of the day-to-day work many of our people do,” he said. “That’s an exciting prospect on many levels, but it also creates uncertainty. As Australia’s largest private employer, we want to lead on this transition and ensure no team member is left behind by the wave of change we’re all riding.”
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Woolworths said it will formalise partnerships with key learning institutions and other stakeholders to ensure it takes an integrated and holistic approach in rolling out the training programme.
While the programme will be built for Woolworths’ needs, the company will also share knowledge across retail and other service industries to support Australia’s upskilling and training programmes.
“In 2021, we’re the proud employer of more than 200,000 Australians. Despite a wave of technological change ahead, we truly believe we’ll have many more people working in our business by 2030,” said Banducci. “Where they work and what they do will change. There will be a much stronger emphasis on service and personal interactions with customers, which will be good for customers and our business.”
Woolworths’ training fund comes amid its ongoing digital transformation efforts, which include the introduction of self-service checkout kiosks back in 2008.
Last year, it announced plans to migrate its SAP footprint spanning retail operations and finance – one of the largest in the world – to Microsoft Azure, paving the way for the upgrade path to SAP S/4 Hana.
Woolworths CIO John Hunt said the company is harnessing the cloud to provide “evergreen infrastructures that foster innovation and improve speed to market”.
“Our cloud transformation is making work simpler for our teams, streamlining our supply chains and improving the customer experiences across our vast network of stores and online channels,” he added.