Amazon helps prime new RAISE jobs program in Akron

Online retailing giant Amazon isn’t ready quite yet to start hiring for its massive fulfillment center being built on Romig Road in Akron.

But Amazon had a high profile presence at the kickoff of a new regional jobs program aimed at connecting job seekers with employers Tuesday evening at Buchtel Community Learning Center off Copley Road in Akron.

That program, RAISE, Good Jobs for Greater Akron, is tied to the Elevate Greater Akron initiative, with a top goal to help the region’s economically disenfranchised minority population. Local jobs connector ConxusNEO is the primary organizer in partnership with the Greater Akron Chamber and a long list of other organizations and businesses.

Kylan Richburg, 22, stopped at the Amazon booth at the RAISE information and resource fair inside the Buchtel auditorium to look into working for the company. He also spoke with other prospective employers there.

Richburg said he is looking for opportunities for advancement. He has been working about three years as a security guard.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about finding where you feel comfortable,” Richburg said.

Tuesday’s event was a pilot for what organizers hope will develop later this year into an established program offering job and advancement opportunities to local residents while helping employers find much-needed workers.

“This is really our test run,” said Sue Lacy, ConxusNEO president.

Organizers deliberately limited participants to residents of the neighborhood around the Buchtel CLC. Publicity was restricted largely to flyers that students and pupils from the neighborhood’s schools took home to give to the adults in their households. It appeared no more than 100 people from the area attended, which is what organizers wanted.

Organizers plan to take RAISE to other Akron neighborhoods as well.

RAISE is an acronym: Reach (job seekers and employers); Access (in your neighborhood); Inform (residents of opportunities and options); Support (to prepare for success); and Elevate (individuals, employers and our city).

Besides ConxusNEO, partners include Akron Urban League, Akron chapter of the NAACP, Akron Public Schools, House of the Lord, Stark State College, city of Akron, Summit County, Huntington Bank, Greater Akron Chamber, Progressive Alliance CDC, Akron-Summit County Public Library and Summit Developmental Disabilities.

Kari Zeman, senior lead for Amazon’s talent supply chain engagement team in the region, was among local employers who briefly addressed participants before the fair. Her team is responsible for hiring at Amazon’s facilities in the Greater Cleveland region, including the one on Romig Road.

Amazon has said that it intends to hire at least 1,500 people full-time for the Akron fulfillment center; Barberton Mayor Bill Judge recently said center employment could reach as many as 3,000 people. The facility likely opens before the end of the year.

“What’s really cool is Amazon has a big presence here in the Cleveland area and it’s ever growing,” Zeman said.

While Amazon is not yet accepting applications for the Romig Road facility, the company seeks applicants with a high school degree or equivalent, she said.

“You must be 18 years of age or older,” she said. Applicants also must pass a drug test and a background test, she said.

“But outside of that, there are no qualifications that we look for,” she said. “Minimum wage starts at $15 an hour.”

Shifts include full time, part-time and what Amazon calls a reduced-time shift — 12 hours a day over three days that pays a $2.40/hour premium — she said. Employees get benefits starting their first day on the job, she said.

While Amazon is not yet hiring for the new Akron center, “it will be here before you know it,” Zeman said. She did not say when Amazon will begin taking job applications for the Akron site.

Jamie Patterson, 28, of Akron, said he was happy to come to the RAISE fair, which he learned about from his sister. He has a job but is looking to see what else is available that can use his skills, including the upcoming Amazon fulfillment center, he said.

“There’s just a lot of opportunity here,” Patterson said. “I’m trying to branch out and see the other opportunities. I think this is great.”

Evon Hill, 59, who lives near Buchtel, said she came to the RAISE event to see what it was about. She drives to a job in Hudson and would like to find work closer to her home.

“Always looking for change and growth,” Hill said. “Always exploring my options.”

Sofie Fernandez, staffing coordinator for IT tech support business Epiphany Management Group, said she was pleased with the number of people who stopped at her table to ask questions. She said she talked to as many as 20 people.

“It’s one of the more successful events I’ve attended,” she said. The people she talked to were engaged and looked her in the eye, she said.

The second and third weeks of the four-week RAISE series, from March 9-20, will involve free job preparation courses and workshops at various locations. People also can sign up to get one-on-one help from who RAISE calls “success coaches,” knowledgeable volunteers in the community.

The fourth and final session will be a job and training fair 4-8 p.m. March 26 at Buchtel.

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Mackinnon, Jim. (2020, Mar 4). Amazon helps prime new RAISE jobs program in Akron.  Akron Beacon Journal/  Retrieved from