Amazon’s job fair brings in thousands

Thousands stormed the sites of twelve of Amazon’s shipping centers Wednesday as the company held a giant job fair at locations across the US.

While the offered wages aren’t anything to write home about, countless individuals are considering working at the e-commerce company’s new warehouses packaging and shipping various customer orders in pursuit of generous health and other insurance benefits.

Amazon claimed it received “a record-breaking 20,000 applications” and hired thousands on the spot. The volume of the hiring spree was such that competing retailers have been forced to close stores.

While projections of the economic impact are mixed, the jobs offer people from various situations with varying skills the opportunity to glean entry level experience in the US job market. Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, said that, unfortunately, more people are likely to lose jobs at traditional retailers than get hired at one of Amazon’s warehouses, but that wages were “decent and competitive”.

“Interpersonal team work, problem solving, critical thinking, all that stuff goes on in these warehouses,” Carnevale said. “They’re serious entry-level jobs for a lot of young people, even those who are still making their way through school.”

Amazon will take advantage of the varying minimum wages across the states offering pay ranging from $11.50 an hour in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to $13.75 an hour in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. The $11.50 rate amounts to about $23,920 a year.

Rodney Huffman of Baltimore plans to work for Amazon while starting his own company.

“I’m looking to do the night shifts and then run my own company during the day,” he said.

Mass recruiters have offered some comfort to concerns that automation would soak up jobs as well, highlighting the various legs up people still have over robots.

“When it comes to dexterity, machines aren’t really great at it,” said Jason Roberts, head of technology and analytics for mass recruiter Randstad Sourceright, which is not working with Amazon on its jobs fair. “The picker-packer role is something humans do way better than machines right now.”

Amazon also seems to have crafted the job description and benefits perfectly, attracting a diverse demographic of potential employees.

“I like to be busy, so I know Amazon is busy and they want hard workers,” retired police officer Brian Trice said.

The job prospects have also caught the eye of 18-year-old Javier Costa and his 49-year-old uncle, Manuel Alvarenga. Costa said the warehouse work wasn’t necessarily what he was looking for, but his uncle, a recent immigrant from El Salvador, was looking for whatever he could get.

“He was making $6 an hour in El Salvador; you can imagine what the people below him were making,” Costa said. “It’s a harder life down there. At this point he just needs a job.”

But, to be fair, others left the warehouses disappointed, fearing they didn’t fit the job requirements.

“It looks like they’re looking for young, healthy warehouse staff only,” said Schell, a 57-year-old searching for work that will put more money into her retirement.

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