In Profile: Alternative Staffing Alliance

The Alternative Staffing Alliance was launched in March 2007 with 13 charter member organizations. Today its membership of 55 includes alternative staffing organization (ASO) operators, aspiring operators, and other allies.

Brookline, Massachusetts

The Alternative Staffing Alliance is a national member organization that supports alternative staffing organizations (ASO) focused on “a dual mission to satisfy their customers and promote workplace success for people with obstacles to employment.” ASA prioritizes connections with strategic partners, integrating their network with learning communities like the SE4Jobs working group, encouraging use of the tools and resources featured on, as well as actively participating in conferences like the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit in September.

Because a great deal of work goes into figuring out how to run an ASO—from sales strategies to data management to worker supports—the Alternative Staffing Alliance seeks to foster peer learning and connect its members with the most robust resources possible. In addition, ASA engages conventional industry experts and is advocating for nonprofit operator inclusion in the mainstream American Staffing Association.

A recent conversation with Janet Van Liere, Member Services Coordinator, highlights ASA’s work in the sector and their take on employment social enterprise from their supportive role to members in the field.


How would ASA like to engage the community?

ASA aims to leverage and share resources with its members, who range from new to mature businesses and have varying needs. A large number of new enterprises entering the field in the last five years are seeking basic business planning and start-up resources. More established businesses are focused on market expansion, systems improvement and ways to enhance training and supports for workers.

Van Liere views as a natural complement to the ASA’s own member resources, citing features like the Tool Suite for practical, hands-on guidance, and the video perspectives, as a source of inspiration from other professionals, investors and thought leaders in the employment social enterprise space. ASA’s own Member Toolbox focuses more on industry-specific resources related to staffing sales, candidate intake, worker safety and the Affordable Care Act, for example.


Where do you see the greatest promise for the field of employment social enterprise?

One recent development among larger operators is their pursuit of operating partners through licensing or joint ventures as a strategy for expansion into new markets. This model represents a tremendous opportunity for “fast tracking” new enterprise startups by building on others’ industry knowledge, business contacts and operating capacity.

ASA is also seeing new synergies between career-focused skills training and staffing.


Adding skills training to an existing ASO

ASOs traditionally focus on rapid employment following basic job readiness, soft skills, and introductory skills training. Increasingly, there’s a great deal of activity around adding a hard skills training component that can lead to career track placements.

  • TeenForce has piloted a STEM training program to help youth aging out of foster care access Silicon Valley tech opportunities.
  • Embers Staffing Solutions, which serves the construction industry in Vancouver, British Columbia, is sponsoring skills training for general laborers leading to higher-paid jobs and promotion to management positions.
  • Minneapolis’ EmergeWorks has added skills training for high-demand occupations in property maintenance, machining, welding, and IT.

Training organizations adding a staffing component

Likewise, a variety of training-focused organizations are adopting the staffing enterprise model as a mechanism for job placement.

  • Year Up’s recent launch of YUPRO (Year Up Professional Resources) supports employment and advancement of its graduates and alumni across the US.
  • Denver’s Mi Casa Resource Center likewise leverages its employment training through its staffing enterprise Mi Casa Talent Solutions.
  • Other manufacturing and construction training programs such as YouthBuild are exploring staffing service components to build on their core training models.


What Advice Can You Offer Budding Operators?

While the appeal of profitability attracts many—especially nonprofits eager to generate a revenue stream—Van Liere counsels aspiring practitioners to “look beyond the dollar signs.” Although some ASOs generate surplus income, a more realistic scenario is covering a significant portion of enterprise costs with fee revenues. A big factor in financial sustainability is the extent of supportive services for workers and how they’re delivered, whether in-house, with paid or volunteer staff, or through external community partners.

Along with understanding your cost structure, it’s critical to:

  • Identify market opportunities that are a good fit with your job seeker population and social goals,
  • Be knowledgeable about the industries you are serving, and
  • Invest in sales talent and good back office systems.

Her final piece of advice emphasizes strategic use of partners for recruiting, training and supports to maximize the bottom line.


What’s next for ASA?

Currently in a capital campaign and strategic partnership mode, ASA is evaluating its revenue model and poised to leverage its relationships with SEA, America Forward, REDF, SourceAmerica and members and operators in the field. Longer-term, ASA envisions opportunities to link the larger community of employment social enterprises to member ASOs and even conventional staffing firms to help their workers transition to employment in the broader labor market.


Interested in contacting Janet Van Liere, Member Services Coordinator? Register to join and contact her directly through our User Directory.