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Torrington business aims to help put people into long-term jobs

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TORRINGTON — What’s old is new again.

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Local staffing service Alternative Employment Inc. has been around since 1992, but had a ribbon-cutting ceremony just last week.

“Actually, this is a new location,” said President Allison Blackwood, who succeeded her father and company co-founder, Jeff Blackwood, two years ago. The staffing service moved from 883 Main St. to 16 Bird St. in October 2022. The ribbon-cutting signified the move as well as Allison Blackwood’s succession to the leadership position, she said.

She was joined at the ceremony by Mayor Elinor Carbone, Northwest CT Chamber of Commerce membership chairman D.J. Murphy, Economic Development Director Rista Malanca, and other AEI staff members. 

Even before AEI, Jeff Blackwood founded Blackwood Associates Inc. in the late 1970s, as “your traditional headhunting firm,” his daughter said. “It went through a couple versions and had been a franchise, and then he bought it out and made it his own.”

In 1992, he started AEI with a few partners, to complement the recruiting business. Alternative Employment Staffing, as it is often called, offers clients an alternative to hiring people on their own, she said.

What makes AEI stand out is its focus on long-term job placement. Many staffing agencies focus on day-to-day workers, and AEI handles that, as well, she said. “But what we prefer to do is really focus more on what’s the best behavioral and personality fit, so that we’re placing people in positions where they will ultimately get hired on permanently,” she said.

On average, AEI places between 50 and 60 candidates per week, and about 85 percent eventually are hired as permanent employees, she said. Candidates are placed in a variety of positions, including manufacturing, clerical, administrative, not-for-profit, public sector and professional, she said.

Candidates are encouraged to look for jobs in which they are likely to be successful, she said.

“We give them resume coaching. We work with them on how to have a successful interview conversation, but also make sure they’re thinking about where do they ultimately want to be?” Blackwood said. 

Job seekers often are eager to try any job, she said, and that risks landing in a job they are not suited for.

“I tell them, ‘Don’t just say yes today.’ It has to be yes tomorrow and yes next month, as well. So rather than just try something, let’s make sure that we find something that’s really going to work and be successful for everybody,” she said. 

Blackwood said a man AEI had placed as a machine operator a few years ago was still in that position, and also brought his new wife to AEI to help her find work.

“He said that had it not been for us helping him secure that position, his life would be in a completely different place,” she said. “And so, when it came time to helping his wife back into the area and settle in and find something, he knew that he wanted her to work with us.”

AEI also helps companies with small or overworked HR departments, she said. Marketing, recruiting, interviewing, placing and retaining talent are tasks many businesses find overwhelming, so “having our service and having our team take some of that load off can be very valuable, so that they can spend their attention on all of the other myriad of HR functions that they need to do,” she said.

Allison Blackwood spent 20 years “leading and developing people across the not-for-profit, hospitality and financial industries around the country,” according to AEI’s website.

“I am thrilled to be home in NW Connecticut and the second generational owner of AEI Staffing,” she said. “I love this work because we can see the impact every day of getting businesses the talent they need to be successful, getting our friends and neighbors fulfilling work that improves their lives, and how the two together can elevate our community,” she also states on the website.

“I love the idea that we’re helping people with what is really a challenging thing,” she said.

When she or another AEI team member interviews a candidate, they try to help them discover their hidden talents.

“We can talk to them and say, ‘You have so much more than you’re presenting yourself to be. Right? So here’s what your skills really are,'” Blackwood said.

She wants candidates to believe that “It’s not just a job,” she said. “Anyone can have a career, no matter what industry or skill level they’re at. It’s about what do you want to do long-term?”

For more information on Alternative Employment Inc., call 860-489-1463 or go to www.aeistaffing.com.



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