I have been proud to represent the employment industry (temporary, contract and direct-hire positions) for 44 years. Ours is an industry that makes a difference in people’s lives — making it possible to pay bills and move forward with careers.

Having personally witnessed so many positive career influencers, it upsets me to read misrepresentations of the value of temporary/contract positions (passages within “State sees a record surge in temp jobs,” July 21, and “Growth in low-wage temp jobs is no cause for celebration,” Letter of the Day, July 24). From my experience, the suggestion that working in contract (temporary) positions distracts from finding a secure full-time position is inaccurate.

A contract position:

• Makes it possible for employees to meet immediate financial obligations, and thus be free to choose a full-time position that is a good fit for their goals, rather than accepting the first offer that comes along.

• Provides employees with the opportunity to increase their skill sets, improving their career opportunities.

• Introduces prospective employees to an employer “live,” rather than as one of many paper résumés. The employer witnesses the work ethic and value of the individual that cannot be seen on a résumé, and the employee gets to experience the company to see if it’s a good fit.

• Allows employees to keep job skills current and keeps them engaged in the work environment, eliminating what can be a difficult reentry.

• Broadens employees’ overall perspectives of what opportunities they wish to pursue.

In all my years in this industry, I have seen ebbs and tides of contract/temporary staffing usage. That will continue. It makes sense for a business to have a steady full-time workforce level, using contract staffing for the busiest seasons, and cutting back on it during slower periods. This is much better financially and emotionally for both businesses and employees. Layoffs are expensive and disruptive for the parties directly involved — and for the economy.

My experience has been that, although we have experienced unwanted downturns and the resulting loss of jobs throughout my career, the staffing industry has provided a cushion to which both business and workers can turn. Without contract employment, economic recoveries would be much slower. Business would be slower to take the risk of rehiring, and people would remain unemployed much longer.

Since the recovery has begun, the biggest challenge for my firm is to keep a full bench of qualified employees ready to accept assignments. Why? Because businesses have experienced the added value of having a qualified person on board before making an ongoing commitment; they ultimately extend the assignment, and if it’s also the right fit for our contract employee, he or she is hired directly onto the employer’s payroll. The process may take a bit longer, but the tide is turning — and these are not low-paying positions; they are career opportunities within businesses on their way: up!


Mary Marso is CEO of Jeane Thorne Inc. in Minneapolis.