Hundreds turn out for Amazon job seminar in Modesto

06/25/2013 1:34 PM

09/19/2013 1:40 PM

Finding a job with the world's biggest online retailer is no small task.

About 900 job seekers attended two planned informational sessions Tuesday from Amazon to learn more about the company and how to apply for positions at its new Patterson distribution center.

The Internet shopping giant is completing its fulfillment center in Patterson, which should open in late summer or early fall. In preparation, Amazon has begun hiring the hundreds and hundreds of people needed to staff the facility, the vast majority of which are on the warehouse floor. Called "fulfillment associates," those workers are responsible for stocking, picking, packing and shipping the merchandise for customer orders.

Amazon recruiters were on hand for the event at Modesto Centre Plaza to give a clearer picture of what the positions require and how to navigate the online application process.

All the fulfillment associate jobs will start at $13.50 and include benefits, including health care, vision, dental, 401(k) and a stock program. Most of the positions will be full time. Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said several hundred jobs will be available.

The first California fulfillment center in San Bernardino opened in October with more than 600 positions and now has more than 1,000 jobs. The Patterson center will stock and ship exclusively larger items, from TVs to kayaks and beyond. Cheeseman said "anything larger than a breadbox" will go throughPatterson.

Another fulfillment center being built in Tracy will handle smaller items, including CDs, books and smaller electronics such as Kindle e-readers. That center has not begun its large-scale hiring but should within the next few weeks.

The informational seminar was held in conjunction with the Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet. Cheeseman said the company does not hold such public events for most of its center openings and was not planning any other general attendance events.

"This is an exceptional event, and we're excited to be here," Cheeseman said. "We're looking for people with great attitudes and a lot of excitement."

 

'A place for opportunity?'

Those who came to the session said they were looking for a shot at the hundreds of new positions. Some were hoping to find better jobs; others were out of work.

"I hope this is a company that gives everyone a chance," said Turlock resident Kimberly Mavis, 31. "I hope this is a place for opportunity."

Patterson Mayor Luis Molina attended the morning event and said people have been asking him for the past year about how to get hired by Amazon. He said it's nice to finally be able to give them answers.

"People want to know what qualifications are needed, and it's great that that conversation is happening now," he said. "People will know now if they can compete or not. I know we have a good work force here that can compete. I don't think Amazon would have landed in Patterson if they didn't think we had the work force."

Fulfillment associate positions are open to those 18 and older and require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Other basic qualifications include the ability to read and take direction in English and the physical fitness to do the lifting, walking and climbing required of the work. Employees must pass a background check and drug screening.

As a large-item facility, Cheeseman said, more emphasis will be placed on working with powered equipment such as forklifts and cherry pickers. But she said previous experience with such equipment is not required, as extensive training will be given to all those hired.

The nature of the merchandise at the center means it will need a smaller staff than at the small-item facilities, which regularly have more than 1,000 employees. Cheeseman said several hundred likely will be needed in Patterson.

 

Seeking help to apply

Some who came to the session said they were hoping for some help and insight in how to apply and ways to stand out.

"When I heard they were hiring, I went online and tried to apply and it was hard," said Modesto resident Frank Bond, 49. "Hopefully, this will get me through the application process."

The application process starts with an online form and assessment test. Qualified candidates then are contacted for a phone interview. Finalists will be invited to a Direct Hire event, starting in August for Patterson, where face-to-face interviews will be conducted and job offers extended.

Amazon recruiter Ken Brown said the firm prides itself on being "the Earth's most customer-centric company."

Employees must be able to work in a fast-paced environment. On Amazon's peak day, 26.5 million units were processed companywide.

Brown and the other recruiters emphasized the advancement opportunities available for those who start as entry-level warehouse associates.

 

A sense of fulfillment

After the morning session, job seekers who filed out said they felt better about their chances of being hired by Amazon.

Salida resident Rosendo Lopez, 37, has a part-time job but is looking for full-time work with more opportunity for growth. "I feel better as far as how to get into the system," Lopez said. "I feel like I have the basics, and this will help me get a foot in the door."

No applications or candidate information were accepted at the informational sessions. Today, the Alliance Worknet will hold special Amazon application events at its Career Resource Centers in Modesto and Patterson to help those without computer access or who need additional assistance.

Both centers will be open for extended hours with additional staff. There will be more than 100 computers available, 60 in Modesto and 40 in Patterson, for people to fill out online applications.

These will be the first application events that the Alliance Worknet has sponsored for a particular company.

The Modesto center, 629 12th St., will be open from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. The Patterson center, 66 N. El Circulo Ave., will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Applications for all fulfillment center associate positions are being taken online only atwww.amazonfulfillmentcareers.com. Additional specialty human resources, management, maintenance, safety and IT positions are being hired atwww.amazon.com/careers. A valid email address is required to apply for any position.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.

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