In its two years in existence, The Job Post — a hiring and recruiting social enterprise of Guiding Light, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit — has helped place more than 1,000 people into full-time jobs throughout the region, ensuring them more stability and a steady income. Vice President Elliott Groh spoke with MiBiz about growth plans ahead for The Job Post and how the program benefits the greater Grand Rapids area.
Why did Guiding Light launch The Job Post?
We have a program at the Guiding Light called the Back to Work program, which is a 120-day program for men 18 and older. … We work with men who are trying to get back on their feet, but need assistance. … We were sending all of these men to work and providing them with job leads and sending them to other staffing agencies. Then we thought: Why don’t we just do it? This opened up opportunities for Guiding Light, and The Job Post operates like any other staffing agency and is run with the same design and format. About 80 percent of our job seekers are now from the general public.
How will the two organizations continue to be related?
We’re always going to be tied in a sense to Guiding Light because all of the profits from The Job Post go back to the Guiding Light to fund programs and services. But there is going to be a point when we look for additional locations for The Job Post.
What could that expansion look like?
We’ve seen lot of growth and success, but we may look for a second location that’s not located at Guiding Light. This would give us the opportunity to serve companies that aren’t located in Grand Rapids. ... We will be expanding into an area where the employers we work with could tap into a different demographic of job seekers and aren’t tied into a bus line. We’re hoping by early summer to have a second location. We haven’t started canvassing yet to determine where that will be.
What types of work are Job Post workers getting?
Our job seekers are getting work primarily within manufacturing fields. It’s a lot of light industrial, general labor and assembly all the way up to skilled trades and technical positions. Some are also working as CNC operators or specialized machine operators and in construction.
What’s The Job Post’s service area? What companies are you working with?
Most of our clients are within Grand Rapids proper and we also work with a couple of companies out in Walker, Grandville and Comstock Park. We don’t identify the companies we work with because of our competitors. We work mainly with mid-size manufacturers in the area, from furniture makers to large food production companies and also some companies that are automotive-based. We dabbled a bit in customer service in the past, but for most part it’s manufacturing. There’s a huge need for those workers.
What are your clients saying about their talent needs?
The economy is at a point right now where it’s so good that companies are struggling to find workers with a skilled background in manufacturing. Across the board, there is a skilled labor shortage. Companies are at a point now where they are raising wages and increasing benefits to make their company more appealing to potential employees. There are also less people going into manufacturing lines of work and more people going to college. I’ve been here almost two years and I’ve been hearing about it the whole time I’ve been here.
Why would someone choose The Job Post over more traditional employment options?
First and foremost, we offer a really quick turnaround time. It’s pretty common that people come in here and within two hours they have a job lined up. We’re fortunate to partner with some really good companies in the area that provide good opportunities to get into. We offer bonuses based on perfect attendance. If they get hired into a company, we will offer another $100 bonus and that comes from our profits. Most of our positions are not for skilled labor, so the companies we work with don’t necessarily need someone with a lot of experience. If people have a good attitude, a strong work history, and have been on the job for a while, there’s a lot of success for people who bring these attributes to work with one of the companies we work with.
Do you see the need for this service increasing or decreasing?
In general, I think staffing services are becoming more needed, especially in Grand Rapids where the labor market is competitive and companies across the board are struggling to find employees. 2018 is pretty much going to continue to stay pretty good for manufacturing in the area.
How are revenues generated to support the program?
We provide the company with the employee for 90 days and we cover all of the fees and payroll and charge the company a markup of anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of the hourly wage. Any revenue we get off of that goes back into the programs provided by Guiding Light. A company may pay the employee $10 an hour and we will bill them at a rate of $14 per hour. Once costs such as payroll taxes are taken out, we make about $1 per hour per employee. It’s not a huge profit margin, but with enough employees, it can become quite substantial. The Job Post services provided $1,396,805 in income to Guiding Light for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Our total income was $4,742,056.
What brings people to Guiding Light?
Our Back to Work program is for men who are maybe living in an unstable living situation, but something may have fallen through. They may be staying at a weekly hotel, which costs a lot. They come here because they need a place where they can start saving money and get back on their feet. We also get people who are new to the area and may have had something fall through with their housing. A place like the Guiding Light is great for something like that. We also have a substance abuse recovery program that serves men only. This is a four- to six-month residential program that is completely free to individuals.
How might cuts at the federal level affect your work?
Across the board, nonprofits are seeing a dip in donations and fundraising efforts are not getting them as far as they used to. There’s a definite fear that that trend is going to continue. It’s imperative to us that we start taking more control over our own destiny and if we can be more self-sustaining it would be better because we wouldn’t have to be as concerned. Our goal is to become more sustainable. We’re going to make it work and figure out how to get it done.
The Job Post, in detail
- Social enterprise of Guiding Light, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit focused on recovery and homelessness
- Operates as a full-service staffing agency
- Launched two years ago
- Placed more than 1,000 individuals in full-time jobs, creating $2.5 million in economic impact
- Provides pre-screened workers primarily for manufacturing companies in the greater Grand Rapids area
- Gives workers meals, clothes and transportation
- Provided $1.4 million in revenue to support Guiding Light in the 2016-2017 fiscal year
- Plans to scout for a second location in 2018
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that The Job Post contributed $1.4 million in revenue to Guiding Light.
MiBiz coverage of Michigan’s nonprofit sector is made possible through a generous sponsorship by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, a leader in funding, initiating and leading programs that benefit the Grand Rapids area in the arts, community development, education, environment, health, and human services. For more information, visit grfoundation.org.