By SARA FISHER
Good help may be hard to find, but in L.A.’s booming new-media and information technology industries, it’s practically impossible.
That’s where a new breed of specialty temp agencies comes in. Rushing to fill the new niche, several agencies dedicated to placing high-tech professionals have emerged.
“L.A. is a hotbed of start-up tech companies in need of staffing to help them get off the ground, and we also have mature companies folding technology into their business practices at a fast rate,” said Anne Laderman, the Los Angeles area manager for New Jersey-based Millennium Staffing. “As a result, the demand for talented, computer-savvy employees to work on projects is the hottest I’ve ever seen. That demand is driving our company’s expansion.”
Millennium Staffing, a Saddlebrook, N.J.-based company, has opened two Los Angeles branches in early March, joining its flagship office in Burbank, which opened in March 1997. Laderman said Millennium has plans to open three more offices in the Los Angeles region by this fall to keep pace with demand.
Randy Ricker, L.A. market manager for Boston-based MacTemps Inc., said the booming demand for high-tech professionals prompted his company to open a new subsidiary in January called Web-Staff. With an office in the Miracle Mile district, Web-Staff specializes in workers skilled in creating and managing company Web sites, computer system administration, and even Web-site marketing strategies.
The biggest challenge the tech temp industry faces is the severe shortage of good employees. To provide clients with a pool of qualified workers, both Web-Temps and Millennium employ extensive screening processes that they say are above and beyond those performed by traditional temporary staffing agencies. Millennium also offers free training opportunities on new software to keep its workers current on the latest software upgrades.
“The very reason why Web-Staff is going to do well is because talent is scarce,” Ricker said. “We’ve had over 100 job requests in the first three months of business. It takes time to find good help, and we go far beyond what a standard human resources department can do.”
Ricker said the hunt for good help is so fierce that in his experience with MacTemps, about 50 percent of the temp employees are hired permanently. He expects that ratio to hold true for Web-Staff.
Thomas Fenady, director of information services at ad agency Rubin Postaer and Associates in Santa Monica, said he prefers to hire employees who began as temps.
“The advantage of going through a temp agency is that you can really test the people, put them through the wringer, and determine how they fit in over the course of months rather than a couple hours in interviews,” he said. “It does cost us a considerable amount more to go through a temp agency rather than through a head hunter or our own human resource department, but experience has shown that we get the best people this way.”
While both Web-Temps and Millenium are off to a fast start, tech temp agencies face significant challenges. For one thing, filling clients’ requests in a timely fashion can be difficult. Both Ricker and Laderman acknowledged that their respective companies have not yet successfully placed people for all their orders.
Moreover, many clients demand only the best when it comes to tech workers, who routinely work under deadline pressure on high-stakes projects.
“We’ve rejected nine out of 10 applicants for some positions,” Fenady said. “We’re not looking for someone merely to fill space, but someone who can really think on his feet as well as know the technology.”
Another challenge is that temp agencies are competing against more-established names in the industry. General Employment Inc., based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. and with branches in Torrance and Woodland Hills, has specialized in placing information technology workers for the last 10 years. Also, general temp agencies such as Glendale-based Apple One Employment Services have created special divisions dedicated to placing high-tech workers.
Kimberly Preston, Los Angeles area manager for Apple One Employment, said she is skeptical about the specialty agencies’ chances of long-term success.
“I question whether those agencies like MacTemps will be around for a long time,” Preston said. “They are pricing themselves out of the ballpark. Their placement fees are about 30 percent higher than ours in order to compensate for their smaller applicant pool. Also, L.A. tech companies and studios themselves are recruiting young talent aggressively. It’s turning into the NBA draft here.”
While no agency would disclose exact fees, Millenium executives said they charge between $30 per hour for workers with entry-level skills and $100 per hour for their high-end workers. Ricker said Web-Staff fees average around $60 to $70 per hour. The client pays these fees to the temp agency, and then the agency uses that money to cover payroll, taxes and workers’ compensation payments.
In exchange, the temp agencies offer their customers satisfaction-guaranteed service, allowing companies to send back workers they decide are not up to their standards.
“As we reach the new millenium, every single company needs the kind of resources we specialize in,” Millennium’s Laderman said. “The need is there and keeps on growing. Since we work with and help develop highly trained professionals that range from Web masters to Internet researchers, we will keep on growing as well.”