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Spotlight Nonprofit: Creating a new kind of call center that puts college kids to work and on track for a prosperous future

LatinaLista — In the last ten years, more than a million customer service jobs have moved offshore. In our country where there are 25 million Americans unemployed or under-employed, it’s a cruel reality.

What’s even more cruel is the fact that young people, who would be perfect for these kinds of jobs where they can learn basic job skills like collaboration, time management, how to communicate with their co-workers, supervisors and customers, problem solve and apply critical thinking to projects don’t get the chance at these kinds of jobs, or practically any entry-level job, in an economy where the unemployment rate among youth stands at “14.9 percent for whites, compared with 28.6 percent for blacks, 14.4 percent for Asians, and 18.5 percent for Hispanics.”

Dave Dougherty, former CEO of Convergys Corp. in Cincinnati, Ohio wanted to tap into the unused market of college-educated youth talent and create a demand among businesses for a call center — on US soil. In January 2012, he launched Education At Work.

Knowing that students attending college are barely making ends meet or graduate already in debt, and most don’t have any viable job prospects to begin paying off those school loans, Doughtery created Education At Work with specific goals in mind:

1. Exclusively employ college students.
2. Provide real-life job skills.
3. Provide competitive wages.
4. Provide opportunities for employer connections.
5. Provide tuition assistance.

Education at Work enjoys strong partnerships based on our better than offshore quality results and low rate structure, we deliver the best overall value in the U.S. customer care market. As a result, this continues to enable us to attract more client companies, which in turn allows us to employ more students, and fund more tuition assistance. Education at Work enjoys strong partnerships with the colleges and universities in the local markets in which we operate, which enables us to better engage their student populations. This makes tuition assistance more readily available to students in need and provides us with unprecedented access to high-quality employment candidates for our client programs.

However, Dougherty and his team have not just set up a traditional call center where people don’t interact but with their customers over the phone. Following the trend in today’s successful businesses that promote open collaboration, Education at Work is set up as an:

open office and call center space that promotes creativity and collaboration between our student-employees, supervisors, and executive team. Our goal is to work hard but enjoy our environment at the same time.
The Education at Work workspace is inviting, open and easy to navigate, filled with bright colors that promote an active dynamic and a creative mindset. Working with the local colleges and universities where our student-employees attend, we interweave their collegiate themes into the work space. This encourages friendly rivalry and competition within the work environment, while promoting a culture of participation, dedication and hard work to better meet the goals and expectations of our clients.

Just like the real world, there is competition for Education At Work jobs. Students must be actively attending school and submit an application before being considered for a job that used to be considered just another “dead-end” job but is now seen as providing any student who gets it as the luckiest break for their future.

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