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Front Page » May 9, 2006 » Local News » Sen. Bennett's rural conference part III
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Sen. Bennett's rural conference part III

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and COREY BLUEMEL, Staff Writer

JoAnn Wagner speaks at the economic summit.

JoAnn Wagner, chairman, president and CEO of SOS Staffing, was the lunch keynote speaker during Senator Robert Bennett's Rural Business Conference held recently in Vernal. Wagner has been in the staffing business for more than 35 years.

Wagner stated that her first eight grades of school had been spent in a one room schoolhouse in Colorado. It was then that her family moved into Grand Junction and she learned to ride a school bus. Following high school, she attended Colorado University in Boulder and came out with a background in business. She was a stay at home mom for many years with the typical part-time jobs.

When she decided to go to work she became aware of Kelly Girls, a job placement firm for temporary office help. She set up an office in her home and began placing workers for Kelly Girls. This was in 1970, and launched her career in the staffing profession.

"It has been a great career and it has been a lot of fun," said Wagner. She went on to recruit clients for her own staffing company, which became the largest independently owned staffing company in Colorado. She sold that company and went to live in Chicago and run a similarly sized company. Following that position, she became acquainted with SOS Staffing and came to Utah to run the office there. SOS Staffing has 127 offices west of the Mississippi.

"After coming to Salt Lake, I became the chairman and CEO of SOS. In Utah not all times are great, and it has been a good learning experience to reposition ourselves during those times," added Wagner.

Wagner said there is a lot of talk in the West about natural resources, and she feels the biggest natural resource is the people. "Our natural resources are underground and above ground. Human resources should be viewed as natural resources," she said. She explained recruiting fairs which are held in the East and Midwest. These fairs focus on junior high school students and teaching them to be aware of their job goals and needs.

In the West, there is a lot of growth and expansion taking place, and SOS Staffing has now recruited more people for those jobs than there is housing for. She stated that in Utah, SOS Staffing places 12,000-13,000 people weekly, with the biggest percentage of those being in rural areas in almost every county. "Where does the future lie for Utah? It lies in keeping your talent home," said Wagner.

She then introduced one of the staff members from the Vernal office. This staff member has a daughter who was placed into a position with Halliburton as a dispatcher. After three months, she was promoted and transferred overseas and is now making $80,000 a year. That is a sample of what we do, match the right person with the right job.

Wagner went on to say that SOS provided opportunities for the workforce. She said there is not a person we cannot help. There is no cost to the applicant, the client company pays the expenses. She stated that SOS needs to continue to find people who can fill the jobs that are available and keep flexibility in the job market. Wagner also explained job sharing. This is a program that is working for a great number of people. Two people share the same job and work it for different hours or days. For example, one week the first person comes in for three days and the next week, works for two days. There are many ways to job share, and this program has the potential to provide opportunities for those rural people who want to keep their farms, but yet need additional income.

Job sharing and job partnering are only two ideas to help the workforce. "There are all kinds of creative ideas to alleviate many problems faced by the workforce," Wagner said. "You, as potential employers, must plan the future of your companies and its workforce. Employees must be trained in what skills are needed to succeed in the workplace. The internet is also providing job readiness. Employers can recruit more qualified employees from long distances. We are recruiting from Canada now.

"Our company can provide pre-screening of applicants, training and development. Many of our workers begin a position as a temporary worker, then offered a full time position within three months. We handle couples who want seasonal work so they can travel during certain times of the year. We can do payrolls for companies. We are very flexible," said Wagner. "Our goal is to see that every American is offered a job. We're all about putting people to work."

Following her talk, Wagner took questions from the audience. A person asked her what opportunities there are for young people to stay near home to work. Wagner said that if it becomes necessary for a young person to leave the area to work, SOS offers a tracking program to keep that person informed should a job in their field come available. In some cases, SOS can encourage economic development councils to notify and inform businesses to relocate to their area. As an example, she noted several call centers in rural Utah. "We are bringing more people into Utah than we are sending out," Wagner said.

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