Member Profile: Goodwill Temporary Staffing, St. Petersburg, Florida

Goodwill Temporary Staffing
St. Petersburg, Florida

Year staffing program began: 1995
Jobseekers placed last year: 373

Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, based in St. Petersburg, Florida, serves a 10-county region in west central Florida. Among 170 Goodwill organizations in north America, Goodwill Industries-Suncoast is noted for its outstanding job placement performance, ranking first in the nation in eight of the past 10 years for the number of people placed in jobs. Contributing to this achievement is Goodwill Temporary Staffing, one of several employment services operating within the organization’s Suncoast Business Solutions division. 

Pictured: Cordelia Hinton, director of Suncoast Business Solutions and Tadia Brenner, manager of Goodwill Temporary Staffing

We spoke with Cordelia Hinton, director of Suncoast Business Solutions, and Tadia Brenner, manager of Goodwill Temporary Staffing (GTS), to learn more about their work to help low-income job seekers secure employment. Both Cordelia and Tadia are experienced, long-term staff at Goodwill. Tadia joined Goodwill Temporary Staffing a decade ago and Cordelia has led Suncoast Business Solutions for the past seven years.

What population(s) does Goodwill Temporary Staffing mainly work with?
Although we are a full service staffing agency, we focus on serving “labor market-disadvantaged” individuals which include people who are low-income, low-skilled, and in some cases have criminal records. Goodwill Industries-Suncoast runs several community corrections programs and we place some of these individuals in jobs through our temporary staffing service. During the past year, we’ve seen an increase in applicants with higher skills and education which reflects the continued high unemployment rate in our market.

In addition, we serve people with documented disabilities through Goodwill JobWorks, a separate subsidiary of Goodwill Industries-Suncoast operated in part by Suncoast Business Solutions. As a certified employment center of RESPECT of Florida, Goodwill JobWorks can access the state set-aside program that enables us to place people with disabilities in temporary jobs at government agencies. RESPECT of Florida is the not-for-profit agency that coordinates the Florida Department of Management Services’ preferential purchasing program for employment of people with disabilities, and these placements are exempt from competitive bidding.

How many jobseekers does your program serve annually?
In 2009 Goodwill Temporary Staffing served 1,667 individuals and placed 373 people in 556 job assignments.

How are participants referred to your program?
We have a good relationship with the state workforce system in our region and receive referrals from these and other agencies. We have an active web site, and also attract applicants through word-of-mouth, networking activities, including community job fairs, and walk-ins.

What types of support services have you found to be most critical to your candidates’ workplace success? 
We assist our applicants with interview preparation and routinely provide pre-placement assistance to address potential barriers to employment, as well as post-placement troubleshooting to address questions and issues that arise on-the-job. Goodwill Temporary Staffing does not offer case management per se, but we refer individuals for assistance with transportation, child care, interview clothing, and counseling as needed. We find that bus passes are in high demand to meet transportation needs.

Also, through a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, we have been able to offer employability and customer service training seminars to a limited number of job seekers, which increases their employment and retention prospects. Individuals who complete the customer service training seminars are eligible for certification by the National Retail Federation, and we are authorized to conduct the testing in-house. Goodwill Temporary Staffing assists seminar graduates with job placement, and we offer a monthly job retention support group where they can informally discuss workplace issues and share coping strategies. As of December 2009, 53 individuals have completed the customer service training and 38 the employability training.

What types of employers do you serve?
We serve a range of employers in all sectors – private, non-profit and government – and we also supply workers to other divisions within Goodwill, including our retail stores and superstores. Our private sector customers include manufacturers, nursing homes and hospitality industry businesses.

What marketing methods or messages have you found to be most effective in attracting new customers?
The Goodwill name has an excellent reputation, and many employers respond positively to the fact that our temporary staffing revenues help support Goodwill’s human service programs.

What are the biggest challenges of operating a staffing service program in your market?
At the moment, the slow economy is making things difficult. Unemployment has remained high, around 12% in our region, and employers are simply not hiring.

As a manager, what do you wish you had more time for?
Tadia: I’m very involved in all aspects of the staffing business and don’t want to give up any part of it. On the other hand, it would be nice to have more time out of the office to develop stronger customer relations and promote GTS more widely in the community.

Cordelia: I would welcome more time to develop partnerships with employers and persuade them to commit jobs for the graduates of our training seminars and possibly even participate in the training. It would mean so much to be able to place our candidates immediately upon their completion of the training seminars.

What about your staffing program makes you most proud?
Our temporary staffing services directly contribute toward achieving the mission of Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, which is to “help people achieve their full potential through the dignity and power of work.”

What are your program’s main goals for the future?
We would like to increase our training capacity, including expanding our employability training and adding financial literacy and other skills training, such as janitorial services. We are working to increase our staffing service revenue, and as mentioned earlier, to cultivate employer partners that will commit to hiring our training seminar graduates.

What advice would you offer to someone considering alternative staffing as a strategy in their community?
Treat it like a business: carefully study the market, develop a sound business plan with a realistic marketing strategy, and hire skilled staff.

To learn more, please visit Goodwill Temporary Staffing and Suncoast Business Solutions on the web.

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