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POSITION FILLED: Kerry M. Tracey sees her business as a barometer for the local economy. Hiring, on both a permanent and temporary basis, is up. / PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
POSITION FILLED: Kerry M. Tracey sees her business as a barometer for the local economy. Hiring, on both a permanent and temporary basis, is up. / PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

For the past 16 years, Kerry M. Tracey, president of Spectra Temps Inc., has witnessed the workforce change and fluctuate. Her temporary-employment and permanent-placement agency is a true barometer of local business, and the market, she said, is picking up.
Spectra Temps had a positive third and fourth quarter in 2011 and since January business has significantly improved. “Even though we are a small recruiting firm we are a reflection of what’s going on in the larger business community, so as goes the nearby companies, so goes my business. In the depths of the … recession, business was struggling,” she said.
The number of people approaching the company seeking employment was overwhelming. The demand for workers hit a dry spell, as companies were simply not hiring. “It was heartbreaking,” she recalled. “There was some panic and you could see there was a real [need for employment]. It was tough to see and very sad. Then, ironically, it fell off. I think some people became discouraged.
“As we come out of it, I think that we are a few months ahead of the trend,” she said. “Hopefully that’s a trend for the greater good of all of Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts.”
Before starting Spectra Temps, Tracey worked for Retail Recruiters, a staffing agency, strictly on commission. Approached by an investor who wanted to get into the recruiting industry, she left to start her own business. Within four months her partner left and she hasn’t looked back. The company has persevered through good times and bad, maintaining its same location on West Exchange Street for close to two decades.
In the early days, potential candidates weren’t always well-versed in word processing, never mind computers. Nowadays, things are drastically different. “Obviously, not only must everyone be computer literate, regardless of age, but everyone has to stay up to speed with software requirements. You have to know the necessary technology pertinent to your field of expertise,” she said, “in addition to understanding the job description.”
The company doesn’t specialize in catering to niche markets, but many of its clients come from the legal field, as well as manufacturing. “Those companies are still out there, the large manufacturers, and even the mid-size and smaller companies,” she said. Much of their business, about 60 percent, is providing labor for temporary employment, but many of those are “temp-to-hire” and become permanent depending on the type of employment. In the past, if a prospective employee had the necessary qualifications and level of professionalism, businesses would consider an applicant. “If they had certain intangible qualities or an education that would make them a good match for the company, they would be hired,” Tracey said. Now things are different.
“Companies want the resume to be a perfect fit for their job description, they are very specific with what they want,” she said. Businesses are putting an emphasis on the past work experience presented in resumes. For example, if a company needs a quality-control inspector on an electronics assembly line they will accept someone with only that specific experience. “There are so many people unemployed that companies want the best parallel matches they can find,” she said.
Over the years Tracy has seen the labor force adapt to the demands of industry and in the future she believes the workforce will require more education than ever before. “More and more, companies are needing highly skilled, blue-collar laborers, but schools are not giving them the training and people are choosing not to go into that profession,” she said.
If a student has that mindset they will more than likely continue their education toward a bachelor’s degree, so there is a growing need for an intermediate educational program.
“If someone wants to get an engineering degree, that’s great,” she said. “Nonetheless, [a mid-level education] is a good entre into a technical field. Even if you stayed in the field for only a few years it provides invaluable, hands-on experience and it pays very well. It could pay $40,000 to $50,000 per year.”
There may not be a lot of glamour in the staffing industry, she said, but she is pleased with her company and its accomplishments.
“I’m proud to be a working owner and at the end of the day the buck stops with me,” she said. To be successful she believes is simply a matter of doing your best every day. “And don’t panic, no matter what,” she said with a laugh. •

Spectra Temps Inc./
Tracey and Associates

OWNER: Kerry M. Tracey
TYPE OF BUSINESS: Staffing agency
LOCATION: 260 West Exchange St.,

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