The CEO of an Indiana medical packaging and transport company needed to fill some  jobs. Quickly. However, he "wanted to avoid" spending the $45,000 to $60,000 it would take to hire a staffing company to fill those posts for him. So instead he turned to Indianapolis' WorkOne offices, a "one-stop career center system" funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The agency is doing something a little unusual as a public entity. It is providing staffing services to companies much in the way private firms do, except it's doing it for free.

Yes, you read that sentence right. Read it again if you don't believe me. Or read the original article in the Indianapolis Star where those words came from.

Your tax dollars hard at work. Working against you perhaps in this case, in the form of a government agency giving away for free what you are bold enough to charge money for.

"We wanted to take a private-industry approach to a public division," said Bryon Silk, business solutions manager for EmployIndy, who manages WorkOne Indianapolis, to the newspaper.

EmployIndy and WorkOne receive funding through the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and other specialty federal grants, to recruit candidates, educate unemployed or underemployed workers and connect them with appropriate employers.

The federal legislation "provides the framework for a national workforce preparation and employment system designed to meet both the needs of the nation’s businesses and the needs of job seekers and those who want to further their careers," according to the government website. Title I of the legislation is based on the following elements:

  • Training and employment programs must be designed and managed at the local level where the needs of businesses and individuals are best understood.
  • Customers must be able to conveniently access the employment, education, training, and information services they need at a single location in their neighborhoods.
  • Customers should have choices in deciding the training program that best fits their needs and the organizations that will provide that service. They should have control over their own career development.
  • Customers have a right to information about how well training providers succeed in preparing people for jobs. Training providers will provide information on their success rates.
  • Businesses will provide information, leadership, and play an active role in ensuring that the system prepares people for current and future jobs.

I did have the chance to have an extended phone conversation with Tiffany Thompson, president and owner of DaMar Staffing Solutions in Indianapolis, for her take on EmployIndy.

She says as a body shop EmployIndy has a place in the market, and doesn't seem to resent at all what they are doing.

"At the end of the day it's free, and I believe you get what you pay for," said Thompson, who started in the business as a recruiter more than 20 years ago. "If decision makers have the time and energy to sift through endless amounts of candidates, then I guess it could be a good deal. But if you want relationships, and service, and effectiveness and efficiencies when it comes to capturing the best candidates, I don't think EmployIndy can compete with me. These are government workers who don't know our industry, who aren't keeping up on what's hot and simply won't ever take the place of a traditional staffing agency."

"These are government workers who don't know our industry, who aren't keeping up on what's hot and simply won't ever take the place of a traditional staffing agency."

That last statement may be news to EmployIndy though. The Indianapolis Star article cited another example where they undertook a 300-person hiring project for a Central Indiana health-care service provider who needed to bring on nurses and other graduates with a background in business, public health, teaching and computer science.

EmployIndy screened approximately 600 candidates, found the best 300, then referred them to the client. Bryon Silk of EmployIndy said they saved the health care organization $1 million through its staffing services.

"We'll work in competition with staffing services," Silk told the newspaper. "Our goal is to be (a company's) sole source for candidates."

"We'll work in competition with staffing services. Our goal is to be (a company's) sole source for candidates."

So Tiffany Thompson may not think EmployIndy is competition, but given that quote, the folks at EmployIndy think otherwise!

What do you think? Is this okay? The more the merrier? Any program that gets more people back to work is a good thing regardless? Or is this a taxpayer-supported direct hit that is literally taking money from traditional staffing agencies? Does anyone know other areas of the country where this same thing is happening? We would love to hear from you.

Tags: Recruiters, Training, News, Staffing Companies, Temporary Employees, Temporary workers, Job Seekers, Temporary Agencies, Career development, EmployIndy, US Department of Labor, Workforce Investment Act, Workforce preparation