Putting job-seekers to work

Staffing firms connect the north country with opportunities

Robert J. Penski, owner of Penski Inc., outside his business at 50 Market St. in Potsdam. Photo by Jason Hunter.

The job hunt can be a tedious, yet gratifying, frustrating and fulfilling journey. Sometimes the search for work is in one’s field. Other times, job seekers decide — or are forced — to switch gears and take a completely different path.

Despite the reasons for the hunt, work force firms and staffing agencies are bringing the job search full circle bigger and better than before. Even during an economic downturn, these companies continue to help people and businesses find ways to thrive without enduring major financial challenges.

Robert J. Penski, co-founder and president of Potsdam-based Penski Inc., serves employers across Northern New York, from the tri-lakes area in the Adirondacks to Watertown and many points south. But his clients don’t stop there. The 30-year-old staffing firm also helps companies as far away as Connecticut, Boston, and Ottawa find employees.

So how do businesses with little or no footprint in New York help keep north country residents working? Many of them employ local people to help sell their products and services. It’s called telecommuting, and it’s catching on with north country graduates.

“Because of [St. Lawrence County’s] four colleges, we have people with programming skills who are available to work in competitive jobs at competitive rates,” Mr. Penski said. “Our hourly cost for a programmer with space and rent is cheaper here. They are working from here to provide programming support for a computer application based in Boston.”

As for Ottawa, Mr. Penski explained how many Canadian firms hold U.S.-based contracts.

“It benefits them to have U.S. content in the final product to be competitive in their bid,” he said.

Manpower Group is a global staffing solutions company that employs and retains workers much the same way. The company touts itself as a leader in work force solutions and, with offices in every state, can match a job seeker with employment without the worker leaving the area.

“Our database is nation-wide,” said Cherie Moore, senior staffing specialist at Manpower’s Lowville office. “Before technology kicked things up a notch, we could only find local work for job seekers. Now we can see everything available at every office in the U.S. We also have access to all of the candidates in every one of our branches. This enables us to find matches outside the area, if necessary.”

This squelches the thought that work is hard to find when unemployment numbers are up.

Firms like Manpower and Penski do see more faces when the economy suffers, and it often takes more legwork to find suitable employment for job seekers, or even help with a career change during those times. But even during a recession, many companies still remain that need a stable work force.

“Unemployment numbers don’t really affect Manpower as a staffing service. We partner with clients to develop their business by providing people and services that raise quality, productivity and efficiency,” Ms. Moore said. “We have solutions that help with training and assessment, as well as recruiting, outsourcing and work force consulting.”

[Editor’s note: This is a truncated version of this story. For the full version, please see NNY Business in print or subscribe.]

Joleene DesRosiers Moody is a freelance writer, author and motivational speaker who lives in Pulaski. Contact her at joleene@joleenespeaks.com.