Valerie Curtis has a saying that describes her passion for working in the “specialized staffing” field. It is this: “Nothing is more satisfying than finding the right employee or employer for the job.” Valerie is the area marketing director for EPSCO, a firm that fills positions for “everything from hard hats to law enforcement.”
So, what is specialized staffing? In a word, it’s employment placement all grown up. Back in the day, people thought of “temp services” as something that was used when the receptionist was on vacation, or there was a huge project that needed a lot of manpower to get the job done. These days, staffing services have, by necessity, become much more sophisticated, and EPSCO is a leader in the field.
Valerie is originally from Hartselle, went to Calhoun, and spent several years working on Redstone Arsenal. She earned her Bachelor’s in Business Management and Administration from Athens State University, and in 1994 took a voluntary separation from Redstone to start her own business. Her firm focused on training and development, mostly for defense engineering jobs, and Valerie worked the management side of the house. She sold her interest in the company and moved to Florida, where she worked for the Chamber of Commerce. She ran workshops, managed events, and was involved in small business development. The title figuratively “stitched on her hat” was “Manager of member benefits and events.” Her client list was more than 4,000 strong, and then the recession hit. She returned to the area in 2010, and found EPSCO initially by doing pro bono work for them.
She has another favorite saying, and that is “there is no such thing as a permanent job,” and I think many Americans have found that to be true in the last few years. However, EPSCO has helped many would be employers and employees find each other, and they are still “making beautiful music together.” Some employers are open to the possibility of “permanent hire,” others are not, and it is EPSCO’s job to find out exactly what both parties need, and how to best fill that need.
Just recently she placed someone with an engineering background in what is known as “career staffing,” definitely the more permanent of approaches. EPSCO’s customized staffing services tap a number of fields: insurance, medical staffing, skilled trades, production, administration, clerical and professional.
When she is helping an employer through the hiring process, she’ll screen resumes and pick what she feels is the top 5. “EPSCO has a pretty significant data base of employees,” she told me. Certain things need to be determined up front, such as whether or not they are able and willing to commute, background checks, etc, and then she helps the employer take the next step. If you are one of the top 5, she’ll go to “round two” and do a “pre- interview” in person. She does not make the final selection, but she will make a recommendation, and most often the would-be employer agrees with her assessment.
One of the things I enjoyed about our interview for the article was the role-playing we did. I played the part of a prospective employer as well as an employee, and I found her questions designed to keep me on my toes, but they also were fair and thought provoking.
Valerie was well versed in employment law, and the rights and responsibilities of employers as well as employees. She knows about benefits, probation periods, termination, workmen’s compensation, unions, contracts, civil rights law, discrimination, and can oftentimes see “several moves ahead,” in terms of what both the job market and the job are going to demand.
While EPSCO’s local presence is based in Decatur, Valerie is actively informing and educating local Athens employers about all that can be gained by a customized staffing service. “We deal with skill sets that range from appetizer to dessert,” she says, and does the work up front that much more often can prevent an employer, employee and position from being mismatched. That saves everyone both time and money, and these days it seems that there is not enough of a margin of either to leave room for mistakes.
One of the things that she runs into is the misguided notion that a customized staffing service can “just come up with quality people in eight hours.” Even with their data base being so extensive, there is far more to consider than just experience, and Valerie takes great care in making sure everyone is happy with the decision.
“We will bend over backwards to meet the need,” she says, and if you are in need of employment staffing service, EPSCO and Valerie will go the extra mile to make sure you find what you are looking for.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner