From the Tallahassee Democrat
The burning question job seekers want to know is: How can they land employment at Amazon’s new fulfillment center in Tallahassee?
They’ll have to wait a little while longer for the exact answer, despite Amazon’s announcement last year on its plans to build a giant 635,000 square-foot robotics fulfillment center off Mahan Drive near Interstate 10.
It was initially slated to open in the fall ahead of the Christmas holiday season. The opening start date has since been pushed to spring 2023.
That gives local job seekers about a year to get ready – even though few details are known about when Amazon will begin amassing a workforce army for the $200 million facility.
“I can tell you that in general we begin hiring at sites a few months prior to opening, and while we have not announced the timeline, we do expect it to move quickly,” said Owen Torres, Amazon’s regional spokesman.
For now, Tallahassee waits.
But recruiters and workforce experts say there’s a lot job seekers can do to make themselves an ideal candidate when it comes time to apply.
Amazon’s Tallahassee site: ‘Cream of the crop’ facility
Tallahassee’s incoming center is considered one of Amazon’s premier facilities. Within the company, it’s called a robotics sortation fulfillment center or ARS – Amazon Robotics Sortable.
“The ARS is sort of the cream-of-the-crop facility that we have in our network,” said Sam Blatt, who was the guest speaker during the recent Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce annual breakfast.
“It’s our most expensive. It’s our most advanced technology. It’s our largest employer that has the most products that go through it,” he said. “So, what you guys are getting here in Tallahassee is one of our best types of facilities.”
He hinted at what it’s like inside the warehouse, including Roomba-like robots topped with packages that zoom across the floor at 30 mph.
So what kind of workers are likely needed for a facility like this?
Local recruiters like Aristole “Ari” Maccow say a typical warehouse environment will want candidates who can lift heavy packages within a specified range, operate a forklift, climb a ladder and stand for eight or more hours during shifts.
Prior warehouse or manufacturing experience would be attractive to Amazon, said Maccow, a regional recruiter at CareerSource Capital Region.
Troubleshooting computerized equipment could be another welcome attribute, along with a background in logistics and operations.
Maccow said he receives inquiries from job seekers on whether the agency has leads on incoming Amazon jobs. CareerSource maintains a website, EmployFlorida.com, where employers post available positions.
“At this point, I’m letting them know that from my understanding Amazon will be here. However, we don’t have any jobs to post just yet,” Maccow said. “We do anticipate that we will work with Amazon in order to fulfill their needs.”
Within a year, he said job seekers could pick up more training that’s available in Tallahassee and be part of the company’s workforce of more than 59,000 employees statewide.
Programs at Lively Technical Center and Tallahassee Community College could be a viable route toward gaining necessary skills.
A Commercial Driver License, or CDL, is offered at TCC and would be needed to be an Amazon driver. Within eight to 16 weeks, students can receive their CDL. Kim Moore, vice president for workforce innovation at TCC, said the school is seeing an uptick in interest from residents wanting a CDL.
“not a single day goes by that I don’t have somebody that filled out our interest for commercial vehicle driving,” Moore said.
The vast majority of Amazon’s entry-level jobs won’t require upfront training, Moore said. If residents want to get prepared, she advised they sharpen their interview skills.
“When I think about trying to get folks excited, really it is about the interviewing piece,” Moore said. “That’s the biggest thing that folks can do, the interviewing prep.”
‘It’s early in the game for them’
The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality will play a major role in getting the word out for Amazon and convening workforce partners.
In December, OEV Executive Director Cristina Paredes said her team hosted a conversation with Amazon and several stakeholders in Tallahassee. The goal was to learn more about Amazon’s timeline and other workforce details.
She too wasn’t able to offer specific details on Amazon’s approach to filling 1,000 jobs — the largest job creation by the private sector in Tallahassee’s history.
“It’s early in the game for them,” Paredes said. “Right now, they’re putting together their timeline as well.”
Amazon is planning to be a part of the upcoming Leon Works Expo, sponsored by OEV and the Leon County government.
From business and IT, creative, health and trade jobs, the event showcases a variety of careers to local high school juniors, along with some seniors. The event takes place April 22 at the Tucker Civic Center.
“Just like all of our other vendors, they’re there to show, ‘Hey, this is a career opportunity for you to consider,’ ” Paredes said.
In addition, OEV hosted a roundtable discussion of about 40 attendees in February with AWS, which stands for Amazon Web Service (the company’s cloud platform). Its Amazon’s main subsidiary and was behind QR codes being used at restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The roundtable stressed the importance of cloud computing and certifications offered by Amazon, including solutions architect, developer and advanced networking.
On the AWS website for certification, it offers some free training that allows users to build in-demand cloud skills for free by using learning plans and more than 50+ digital courses.
Amazon will create a new wave of commuters
When asked how Amazon will be able to fill 1,000 new jobs at the fulfillment center, Paredes was cautious not to speak for the company.
In general, however, she said potential candidates are willing to drive 30 to 40 minutes for a “good-paying job.”