Cingular answers the call with new jobs

Five hundred new jobs are coming to town as part of a new call center for Cingular Wireless. Evansville beat out several other sites in Indiana, and Cingular will bring those much needed jobs to town as part of a nationwide expansion of their customer service operations.

14 News has learned Cingular will renovate the former Sam's Club store on Vogel Road, putting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to convert it to a call center for business customers.  It will be staffed by around 500 employees.

Neither the mayor's office nor Cingular's parent company, AT&T, would confirm the story, but independent sources say the center is a done deal, and it will be welcome news to many of the more than 500 workers laid off at Whirlpool over the last several months.

Sandie Nelson, a workforce trainer, says, "The critical issue is going to be interpersonal skills in the manufacturing environment that has become more important over the last 15 to 20 years. Teamwork, communication, has all been part of the training we do for manufacturing entities. Those skills can be transferred to customer service."

Ivy Tech is working with many former Whirlpool employees to develop a new set of skills for non-manufacturing jobs like the call center - part of the customer service industry that's expanding even as manufacturing moves overseas or shrinks. "They're looking for patience, being able to talk to a variety of people, being organized, and being able to locate information. That's very important to be able to find information when you're working in a call center."

Though call center employees average $4-6 per hour less than the typical Whirlpool worker, the possibility of commissions and a steady job will be hard to pass up. "I think that the status of the customer service jobs is going to improve over time. It's vital to our economy. Everything you buy has a call center attached to it."

This new center is part of an ongoing Cingular expansion that will bring at least 15 new call centers online across the country over the next year.

14 News has also learned that Cingular plans to announce their new project at a press conference on Monday.