Member Profile: StaffUP Resources, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

StaffUP_Nicole WalkerYear business began: 2011
Job seekers placed in 2016: 140
Sponsor organization: UpLIFTD

UpLIFTD is a Community Rehabilitation Program that for decades has provided employment to people with disabilities through set aside contracts with state and other governmental agencies, mainly for janitorial services. In 2011, UpLIFTD launched StaffUP Resources, one of three alternative staffing organizations sponsored by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation as part of the Gulf Coast Alternative Staffing Initiative.

With the staffing venture, UpLIFTD sought to augment its state use contracts with private sector business. While commercial placements did not materialize as planned, UpLIFTD built its capacity to hire temporary workers and created a new niche with the state of Louisiana to fill in for various labor shortages and fulfill response and recovery jobs generated by natural disasters, especially hurricanes. UpLIFTD also expanded its reach to serve homeless job seekers, partnering with the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless to open a satellite office at the Homeless Services One Stop in Baton Rouge.

We spoke with Executive Director Nicole Walker to learn more.

How did you get into the alternative staffing business?
In the summer of 2012, I was the Assistant Executive Director and we had just signed a contract to deliver services to emergency evacuation centers. The ink had barely dried when hurricane Isaac headed our way. The state called us at 3 pm and we had to mobilize 30 people by midnight to staff up a large shelter in Alexandria. These events require “all hands on deck” and I work alongside all of our admin staff to coordinate the work and do whatever’s needed.

What job seeker population does StaffUP recruit and support?
We employ job seekers who are disabled or disadvantaged, including veterans and people in recovery. We recruit candidates through the homeless One Stop Center and from low-income housing developments, drug rehab centers, area churches and our Facebook page. For evacuation centers outside Baton Rouge, we hire people sheltered at the centers.

What other types of government contracts do you service?
We provide campus clean-up services to Louisiana State University during the football season, organizing over 70 people into crews of seven that fan out to perform trash pick-up and recycling from tailgate parties that attract 100,000 fans. The work starts at 2 am and it’s a huge job. For people waking up on Sunday morning to a clean campus, the effect is magical and our workers take a lot of pride in performing this feat.

We also provide clean-up services for other festivals and events, and we staff moving and painting jobs for various state agencies.

What types of support services have you found to be most critical to your workers’ success?
Transportation and food are essential. We have our own vehicles, and we rent additional trucks and use Uber as needed for our event staffing. We provide box lunches prepared by a women’s food service training program, and supply work shirts and gloves for our crews.

What are key factors in retaining and growing your contract services business?
We go above and beyond what’s expected, and we’ve built a solid reputation for great customer service. We’re also very transparent in our billing process and offer no-fee conversions when customers want to hire our temporary workers. As an example, our LSU contract began with cleaning a very small portion of the campus. Two years later we’re responsible for the entire campus and the recycling after football games.

What challenges have you experienced in operating a staffing service?
It’s sometimes difficult to find people who can commit to an entire project. The football season work spans a three-month period, and in disaster situations, individuals’ circumstances change day to day.

What about StaffUP Resources makes you most proud?
I feel proud when our customers are happy, and I’m proud of the sense of family we create, even in the stressful environment of an evacuation shelter. Our attitude is ‘we’re all in this together’ and we foster this from the beginning.  We never ask people to do anything that we ourselves won’t do. Our workers appreciate this level of respect, and our shared experiences have brought our internal team closer together. Everyone works hard and we have fun, too!

As a manager, what do you wish you had more time for?
I wish I had more time to further market our staffing services and increase the opportunities available to our job seekers. They have a tremendous work ethic and are always looking for the next chance to work.

What benefits do you see in the temporary employment jobs you offer to people?
We see firsthand how employment changes lives. Our LSU crew workers tell us, just being on the LSU campus is a good feeling and ‘shows us we can get together and get a job done.’ When you have a job, you have a sense of purpose, you feel a sense of community, you feel that pride in giving back to society, you have a reason to wake up. It’s a total transformation and we see that. It’s amazing to watch, and amazing to be a part of.

What are StaffUP’s main goals for the future?
Our main goal is to sustain and grow our customer base. As an example, we’re a contractor with SourceAmerica and hope to fill job orders through their new national staffing services initiative.

What advice would you offer to someone considering alternative staffing as an enterprise strategy in their community?
For us, staffing has been a positive opportunity to build on the contract work we were already doing. Within your own organization, consider how staffing might extend your current workforce services and create additional value for job seekers and employers.

For more information, please visit UpLIFTD on the web.

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