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Seeking: 'Punctual, Presentable and Motivated'

August 10, 1996

Small- and medium-sized businesses are the economy's great job-creating engines. The recently passed welfare reform bill aims to take recipients off the welfare rolls and push them into the job market. JIM BLAIR asked owners and operators of such businesses what they look for in job applicants and how an increase in welfare recipients entering the labor market might impact them.

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SHANNON ACEVEDO

Co-owner and general manager, Certified Services, Burbank

We're a heating and air conditioning firm [with] 27 employees--service, installation and office personnel. Each area requires different skills and personality.

I think [welfare reform] is going to have a tremendous impact on the hiring processes of medium and small businesses. Introducing individuals that [don't have] even base level qualifications, limited in their abilities to speak or read or write English, is a very difficult [situation] to put employers in--a multitude of applications and, by law, we're required to interview each of these individuals.

Programs really need to be in place to handle the training that's necessary for those individuals to successfully come off welfare or this whole thing's going to flop.

The most important issue is that the individuals coming off welfare and [getting] into the employment system really need to have some kind of guideline showing them what reality has to offer. Unfortunately, I think, the welfare system does not provide that adequately. They're going to be entering the interviewing and job hunting market unprepared for what's about to happen.

I see a partnership between the business community and local government to help [prepare] people for the work place.

I deal with a trade association trying to do exactly that with the junior colleges--letting them know what, as potential employers, we want out of the students graduating from their two-year programs.

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ED LAIRD

President, Coatings Resource, Huntington Beach

We employ about 55 and manufacture industrial coatings--paint for toys, TV cabinets and computer housings.

I guess I look at more of a personal thing rather than the skills that [applicants] have, because in our industry we generally like to teach the skills.

I really look for teamwork, involvement and passion.

I certainly hope welfare reform does impact us, because [small- and medium-sized] businesses are the largest segment for employment out there. People coming off welfare are going to be like young people coming out of schools. They're going to be eager to learn and once they do start to learn and have the pride of having a job and earning a check, I think they're going to catch on and be very good employees.

I think the majority will probably migrate to smaller businesses because there's something about a small company that's more family-oriented. You're just not overwhelmed by the size of the company. To better integrate [ex-welfare recipients into their work force], businesses would probably have to set goals.

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FERNANDO V. BONADA

President and co-owner, Southern Graphics Enterprises Inc., Commerce

We have 50 employees and are a very high-technology printing company. Most of the staff in this company has many, many years of experience.

We are always looking for the people who are eager, who have the burning desire to learn and, of course, to apply that knowledge to their work. The most important things we look for in employees are their education, their background and their willingness to learn and change--continue their education--since technology in this industry changes every day.

We also have a few jobs that can be done by nonskilled people, tasks that can be done by almost any person. So if I have an opening and that person is willing to work and is coming from welfare, I'll be more than happy to give him a job. But I don't believe [we'll be swamped with applicants] because there are only maybe two [nonskilled] jobs we have; the rest are all skilled.

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SUSAN MANDEL

President and CEO of Pacific Clinics, Pasadena

We provide mental health services to people in L.A. and Orange counties and have 350 employees.

We look for somebody who lives close to our office because people tend to stay longer if they live nearby and can be connected with their family and their community.

We obviously look for people who have good work habits, who come to work on time, have initiative and don't need to be told to do everything, people who are well-groomed and clean and, if they don't have particular skills that make them expert in their job--such as expert computer skills--people who want to learn how to be more effective at that job.

So learning, initiative and a good work ethic are really important to us.

As much as possible, we also like to have people reflect the diversity of the community we serve.

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