While Niagara’s unemployment rate continues to inch upwards, a local call centre is working to counter that trend.
Just as Niagara’s unemployment rate reached 7.3 per cent in June — up from 6.4 per cent earlier this spring — Convergys Ltd. is planning to hire 40 more inbound customer sales associates every month, “really up to the end of the year at least, at the moment,” said local branch’s recruitment manager Simon Skinner.
It would about double the existing workforce of 250 employees at the Lincoln Street, Welland location.
Site director Lisa Serba said the total number of jobs depends on the needs of the existing client in the large telecommunications business that is expanding its contract with the call centre.
“It’s over the short term and definitely over the next couple months, as we look to ramp up based on client demand,” she said. “We’ll assess that as we have further conversations with the client and we can better assess what their needs are.”
And although the starting wage at Convergys is $12 an hour – only slightly more than minimum wage – Serba said new recruits normally bring home far more than that, once sales bonuses are added up.
“We’ve paid consistently, greater than $50,000 a month for the past few months to our employees, just in sales bonuses alone,” she said.
“If you factor in the starting wage, along with any overtime they may work and sales bonuses and benefits, I would say on average an employee is earning currently anywhere from $16 to $17 an hour.”
Meanwhile, Serba said the company is preparing for significant minimum wage increases under consideration by the provincial government.
“We will certainly increase to new wage if it does become legislation, moving to the $14 per hour in January, and we’ll continue to evaluate hiring strategies as we get closer to that date just to better understand what the client headcount need is,” she said.
Serba said jobs at Convergys are marketed to all demographics, however the jobs are well-suited to post secondary students.
“We have the Welland campus of Niagara College very close. We attract students,” Serba said.
After three weeks of paid training during the summer, she said the company is able to work around the student scheduling and once they return to school full time. Also making the company an attractive place for students is a program that reimburses some of the tuition fees workers pay for career-related education. “After they’re completed a full year of employment, they’re eligible for education reimbursement,” she said, adding the amount of reimbursement provided varies.
“They need to provide us with a transcript of what they’re taking, along with a transcript of their grades once completed.”
The Welland call centre is one of five call locations the company runs across Canada, with branches in Chilliwack, B.C., Nova Scotia, London and Belleville, Ont.
She said Convergys workers can also apply for transfers to other locations within the company.
“As employees look to relocate or move back home with family and friends somewhere else in the country, they absolutely can apply for relocation,” Serba said.
Although tourism industries have pointed to the lack of adequate regional transportation as hurdle when it comes to filling job vacancies, Serba said the bus schedules haven’t interfered with hiring workers at the call centre.
“Because of the flexible hours that we offer, including being open seven days a week, we are able to work around employee transportation issues, whether it be taking local transportation or inter-municipal transit,” she said.
Also, the call centre is only open from about 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., well within the time constraints of the local transit service on most days.
People interested in finding a job at Convergys can apply at www.convergys.com/careers/search-and-apply.