Woolworths huge $50 investment in training for staff and personal shopper is its fastest growing role

Robotics and in store theatre are some of the areas Woolworths employees will be trained in as automation dramatically changes the retail landscape.

Australia’s biggest supermarket announced it will chuck more than $50 million towards reskilling staff over the next three years. It expects 60,000 workers across its stores, e-commerce operations, supply chain network and support offices to benefit from the training.

It also revealed the fastest growing role at Woolworths in 2020 was the personal shopper, with more than 25,000 people now employed in the role.

Training in theatre will be about creating meal inspiration and a differentiated shopping experience for things like tastings and samplings, engaging fresh food displays in seafood, butcher shops and fruit and veg, and cooking demonstrations.

The millions will also help fund redeployment or training for a new career for staff affected by the planned closures of the NSW stores in Minchinbury and Yennora, along with the Mulgrave site in Victoria by 2025.

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Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said around the globe, retail is changing at the fastest pace seen in many decades.

“Technological advances in automation, predictive analytics, AI and cloud computing are making core retail processes much faster and more efficient than ever before,” he said.

“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.

“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.”

Key areas for training will include digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics, along with advanced customer service skills and team leadership.

There are plans to launch an online learning platform and team up with education providers.

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Called The Woolworths Future of Work Fund, the program will be built for the supermarket’s needs but knowledge will be shared across retail and other service industries, it said.

The money will also go towards an increased focus on e-commerce roles and in-store experiences.

Some of it will be invested in reskilling staff members to take on technical and supervisory roles with robotics and automation in new distribution centres.

“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,” added Mr 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.”

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