A Foot in the Door: Using Alternative Staffing Organizations to Open Up Opportunities for Disadvantaged Workers

by Joshua Freely; Sheila Maguire; Shayne Spaulding

Jan 30, 2009
Despite the current recession, temporary employment will likely represent an increasing share of the labor market in the future, particularly for entry-level and low-wage occupations. In recent economic downturns, the temporary help sector has been among the first to rebound, coming back strongly after times of high unemployment. In this climate, alternative staffing organizations, which couple temporary placements with key supportive services, are well-positioned to provide needed assistance to both disadvantaged job seekers and employers. A Foot in the Door presents P/PV's findings from the national Alternative Staffing Demonstration, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. It provides a close examination of four alternative staffing organizations (ASOs) and their efforts to help low-skill and low-wage job seekers find employment. Unlike typical for-profit staffing firms, ASOs may offer -- in addition to the temporary jobs they help participants secure -- retention and supportive services, access to better jobs and assistance obtaining full-time, permanent employment. Fees charged to employers largely cover the costs of these services, making ASOs distinct from other workforce development strategies that depend entirely on foundation grants or public contracts and are usually required to serve certain populations. In contrast, ASOs are flexible on both the supply and demand sides -- they can make adjustments to whom they serve to meet employer needs and identify businesses that are a good match for job seekers. Our findings suggest that when this flexibility is combined with the provision of appropriate supportive services, it may open doors for populations that would otherwise have difficulty accessing these opportunities. A companion report from the Center for Social Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston's John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies focuses on the capacity of the four ASOs to generate job assignments and serve two sets of customers -- job seekers and employers -- and explores the financial and operational implications of meeting mission and income-generation goals.
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