Business

Charlotte employers seeking more bilingual staff

Erin Adamson, right, workforce coordinator for the Latin-American Coalition center assists a client with job related services. The center assists immigrants with resumes, job applications and mock interviews.
Erin Adamson, right, workforce coordinator for the Latin-American Coalition center assists a client with job related services. The center assists immigrants with resumes, job applications and mock interviews. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

In yet another sign of Charlotte’s growing immigrant workforce, a new kind of job fair is being held Friday, to recruit only people who speak more than one language.

Organizers believe it may be the first of many to come.

The Bilingual Customer Service Career Fair at the Latin American Coalition on Central Avenue will include such employers as Verizon, Chipotle, Goodwill and the Charlotte Hornets interviewing people for potential jobs.

Coalition officials say the idea for the fair grew from increased demand in the community for people who are bilingual, particularly those who speak Spanish and English.

The job fair comes at a time when recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows Mecklenburg County’s Hispanic growth rate continues to boom. The non-white Hispanic population grew 14.8 percent between 2010 and last year, more than double the white growth rate. Hispanics are now 12.7 percent of the county’s population, an estimated 128,473 people among 1.01 million residents.

Faith Josephs of the Latin American Coalition says the job fair was created in response to companies in the community that are seeking customer service employees who speak multiple languages. Most of the potential jobs require a high school diploma, through college level education is also being sought.

Josephs noted Charlotte has a large population of such immigrants, many of whom came here with college degrees from other countries that aren’t easily transferable to the United States. This includes doctors, teachers, nurses and lawyers, all of whom can’t find work in their previous career.

“This is a sign that Charlotte is changing. A career fair of employers seeking bilingual job candidates is unique, but more and more these companies are finding themselves with Spanish speaking customers,” said Josephs. “A lot (of immigrants) don’t realize what a skill it is to speak more than one language professionally, but it’s very highly sought.”

Among the employers who will be at the fair is Convergys, a national customer management corporation with two locations in the Charlotte area. One site handles customer needs in the U.S. and Canada. Convergys recruiters say they’ll be looking for “dozens” of high school graduates who speak Spanish, French and English. The work is full time and starting salary is in the $11 range, with health, dental and 401(k) benefits.

“Even I am surprised at how international the (Charlotte) population has become,” says Charlotte native Chanterielle Francis, senior recruiting specialist with Convergys. “We are one of many companies with a need for bilingual people, who will be on the phone with clients. That (immigrant) population Charlotte has is a great resource.”

She lauded community leaders – particularly the Latin American Coalition – for recognizing the community’s bilingual assets and doing a better job of marketing it.

City leaders began looking for ways to maximize the immigrant population in late 2013, when Charlotte created the Immigrant Integration Task Force. Among its goals was finding ways to encourage immigrants to start their own businesses and help grow the city’s work force.

Among the task force’s recommendations was that the city create an Office of New Charlotteans, staffed with bilingual workers who have community development expertise. Other recommendations call for an “International Corridor” to market economic development zones for immigrant businesses, and a “Going Global” campaign that helps local businesses find international markets.

The Latin American Coalition has programs aimed at helping immigrants find work and it has lately enjoyed growing success. In the past six months, the number of immigrants finding work through its job preparedness programs jumped from 8 to 15 percent, agency officials said.

Career Fair details

The Bilingual Customer Service Career Fair will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at the Latin American Coalition, 4938 Central Ave. Registration and resume required. To register and/or receive help with your resume, contact Erin Adamson 704-941-6736.

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