50 New Jobs at Cayuse Tech

March 2011, CUJ

PENDLETON – Expecting to land a new contract that would add 50 new jobs, Cayuse Technologies completed one “boot camp” in February and plans a second one this month to train new employees.

“We anticipate this new contract could grow to 70 full time positions over time. The contract’s not guaranteed but we’re taking applications,” said Valerie Fouquette, Senior Manager, Human Resources at Cayuse Technologies, the Tribally owned onshore delivery center providing software development, customer contact services and other business process outsourcing.

“Companies are downsizing but they still need services,” said Alanna French, Business Development Manager at Cayuse Tech. “Some companies are outsourcing overseas but in our case they’re using Indian Country.”

A dozen new people were hired in February and at least that many more will be hired in March, bringing the total number of full-time Cayuse Technologies employees to about 250. About 88 workers are in Application Outsourcing or Software Development, with the remaining 150 workers in Business Process Outsourcing (inbound helpdesk call center and virtual executive desk services) and administration. Crews are on eight-hour shifts working 17 hours a day, seven days a week.

The primary workforce comes from Pendleton, but many employees use the Tribal Transit System buses to get here from La Grande, Hermiston, Milton-Freewater and Walla Walla. Employees carpool from Tri-Cities. Cayuse Technologies management said many employees would not be able to get to work without the bus service.

About one quarter of the workers are Native American. That’s a number the company wants to see go higher.

“Our goal is more. I’m curious about how many tribal people in the area are still looking for work,” French said.

Toward that goal, Cayuse Technologies has had open houses with tours and workforce preparation classes for high school students and workforce development clients.

“We don’t want working here to be mysterious,” French said.

Part of the reason people perceive it that way is because client confidentiality agreements won’t allow Cayuse Technologies to divulge company names.

“We can’t name names, but people would recognize these companies,” French said, noting the current client lists includes contracts for government, retail support for a telecom company, a large software company, and even a Fortune 50 company.

The range of jobs varies, from offering scripted fix-it help for retailers selling technical products when a cash register or debit machine won’t work, to working as a virtual executive assistant making travel and meeting arrangements and assisting with document preparation for Accenture administrators.

All work is done by contract, and that can mean a job that’s two or three weeks long, or sometimes as long as 5 years.

That makes difficult the job of scheduling employees, who must be trained for the requirements of each client.

“It’s maddening trying to match up the skills and hours and people with ever changing contracts with different client needs,” French said. “We have businesses coming and going with employees switching from one job to another. Twice a week we look at the talent in the building and the contracts that are starting and ending to see where we can best place people.”

The February and March “boot camps” will prepare new Cayuse Tech employees for the demands of different companies, including the client they hope to land later this month. In addition to the boot camps for new employees, training is ongoing for current employees. Cayuse Tech has three training rooms so employees can consistently be retooled to meet the needs of ever changing clients.

“We’re always adding to our tool belt so we’re ready to respond with relevant skills when a client needs it,” French said.

A lot of employees hired in the first boot camp in 2007 have been promoted and have become leaders.

“That’s why we need more in the boot camp, so we can grow,” French said. “We have partnered with Tribal Workforce Development, and are exploring other options in order to do everything we can to prepare, hire and train anyone sent to us.”

Following a pre-employment assessment (aptitude and skills), potential employees with a high school diploma or a GED must pass a background check.

For some people, too much education and experience reduces the chances of them getting the job.

“We’ve had people with master’s degrees and specialized skills that expected more than we could afford and we had to turn them away,” Fouquette said.

Wages depend on the position and on a particular client’s needs.

“What we pay employees depends on the contracts, but it’s above minimum wage for entry level,” Fouquette said.

Cayuse employees are paid while learning to do their jobs.

“That’s unusual since most employers hire people who have paid schools to prepare them to do the jobs we offer. In that way, our employees enjoy a double benefit. They get paid to learn and don’t have to pay a school to teach them the skills they can learn here.” Fouquette said.

French said Tribal leaders are anxious for Cayuse Technologies to contribute profits to Tribal coffers, but that should not necessarily be the company’s main role.

“Cayuse Technologies is contributing by putting people to work and developing a workforce,” French said.

Additionally, she said, a lot of the dollars paid to Cayuse Technologies’ employees stay in the vicinity with employees buying meals at McDonald’s or Wildhorse, and buying gas at Arrowhead.

“We’re losing our ability to capture more dollars because we don’t have additional services for people who live and work here, like a grocery store,” French said.

Still, French and Fouquette agreed that Cayuse Technologies is a great place to work, as evidenced by turnover that is “extremely low by any standards.”

“People love working here,” French said.

This story originally appeared in the CUJ. The Confederated Umatilla Journal is the monthly newspaper of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon.