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Call center hiring may be on the upswing

By Claudia Buck, The Sacramento Bee
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 26--Calling all call-center employees. Or those who'd like to be.

On the same day that Sprint officially closed its Rancho Cordova call center, laying off 240 employees, at least two local companies said they'd like to hire them. Or anyone else who wants to be in customer service.

It could be a sign that the Sacramento region's hub of customer service centers is starting to dial up some growth.

"We're starting to see a comeback in hiring. You're seeing greater opportunities than five years ago," said Terri Carpenter, careers expert with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, the state- and federally-funded network of job-training centers in the Sacramento region.

That's a change from 2009, when a number of large call center operations such as AAA were closing their doors. But regional customer service centers for financial institutions, retailers and state government agencies are starting to backfill some of the losses, she said.

Among those looking to scoop up interested job seekers: Verizon and a local schools software company.

"We are having a little bit of growth and always need to accommodate turnover," said Verizon spokeswoman Heidi Flato. The company has about 50 call center openings at its Rancho Cordova site, "so those Sprint employees can have an opportunity to apply since their experience will most likely be a good fit."

Those interested in Verizon's local call center jobs can apply online at www.verizon.com/jobs.

In El Dorado Hills, School Innovations & Achievement, a 100-person company that provides consulting and software products for school districts, says it's hiring for 13 new positions. And it's especially interested in talking with recently laid-off employees of Sprint's call center in Rancho Cordova.

"The drop in unemployment is making it harder to find qualified candidates to pick from," said company recruiter Rachel Carlton. "With our current need for expansion, we wanted to reach out to those (Sprint) employees" who may have the necessary experience in sales and customer service.

Despite posting openings on such sites as LinkedIn and tech hiring hub Dice.com, she said the company has been unable to find a large pool of applicants for its jobs in customer service, software sales and IT management. To apply, contact the company at (800) 487-9234.

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Earlier this month, as part of a nationwide cost-cutting move, Sprint announced it was closing its longtime Rancho Cordova call center as of Tuesday and laying off all 240 workers, along with call center closures in Florida and at its Overland Park, Kan., headquarters. In addition, Sprint said it is closing 55 retail stores nationwide.

Working in a call center can be an ideal starting point for job seekers, said Carpenter. "Call center jobs are a great step up from an entry-level job and you can build a career path. It's a good way to get in the door with a good company."

Those with experience often have opportunities to move up to managerial jobs or into other departments within the company, she noted.

Typically, starting wages for entry-level call center jobs are about $9-$10 an hour, she said. In the six-county region, the median hourly wage for customer service representatives is $16.93 and the median average annual salary is $35,222, according to data from CareerGPS.com.

Verizon and other employers will have representatives at two local job fairs this week: today at the Greater Sacramento Urban League 2014 Diversity Job Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Exhibit Hall D; and Thursday at the Sacramento Jobs Career Fair, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Clarion Inn and Convention Center, 1401 Arden Way, www.sacjobs.com.

Another local hiring event, the Sacramento Job Fair and Career Fair, is scheduled for April 8 at the Embassy Suites Sacramento, 100 Capitol Mall, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., www.hirelive.com.

At those fairs, employers such as insurance companies, Wal-Mart, SMUD and some state government departments are interviewing for varied positions, not just call center jobs.

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(c)2014 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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