Employment agencies or staffing agencies serve as an effective medium for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) to obtain positions both in the private and public sector.
This article will provide an in-depth analysis and overview of the manner in which PSWs can embark on and develop a career by utilizing the services provided by employment agencies.
In this article you will learn:
- What these employment agencies are?
- the context within which they are situated in the sphere of health care in Ontario,
- the advantages and disadvantages of agencies,
- the salaries they offer, and
- will conclude by providing pertinent information regarding the most effective methods of obtaining employment through them.
WHAT ARE EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES?
An agency serves as a mechanism that links those seeking a job with organizations that are searching for individuals to hire to fill a given position.
They have aptly been described as an “intermediary between workers and employers with the stated goal of matching companies’ needs with workers’ skills and interests.” (2)
Because many organizations don’t have human resources departments that can effectively perform the significant and relatively complex hiring processes required to fill positions, employment agencies are utilized to undertake the task.
Hence, staffing agencies often perform duties including testing and interviewing of all potential candidates and generally screen them to ensure that job seekers possess the work experience, abilities and skill set that their clients are in need of.
Positions in the health care field for workers including PSWs, RPNs and RNs in both the public and private sector also take what is colloquially referred to as the “grunt work” out of hiring processes for companies in need of a worker.
Ultimately, both employment agencies and public and private entities enjoy a type of symbiotic relationship that is often times beneficial for both parties, in addition to the Personal Support Workers in search of work in a relatively competitive industry.
AGENCIES HAVE MANY PSW POSITIONS
Statistical findings indicate that there are 57 000 PSWs employed in Ontario’s long-term care sector with 26 000 working within the community and 7000 holding positions in hospitals.
Here are the results of a recent survey of the Ontario health care labour market, which include Personal Support Workers:
The survey, which reflected over 50 professional classifications including RPNs, Clinical Managers, Nurse Practitioners and PSWs indicates that companies often face difficulty in acquiring new employees.
The study revealed that 64% of agencies are unable to fill the positions that they have available with only 11% reportedly having a negligible or minimal amount of difficulty recruiting workers.
More specifically, among 860 agencies surveyed for the study, there was a total amount of 1413 vacancies in health care occupations.
And the highest number of positions vacant were of Personal Support Workers.
Thus, it is apparent that although the PSW industry is increasing rapidly and new graduates are entering the field at a consistent rate, the supply of workers is unable to meet the demand for them.
HOW MUCH AGENCIES PAY?
The salary of health care workers generally varies wherein most receive the median income of approximately $ 40 000 to $ 50 000 per year,
PSWs earn an average of $ 10 000 less with most receiving approximately $ 25 000 to $ 30 000 annually.
To put it in perspective, the median wage of Canadians for industries including wholesale trade, administrative support services, construction, retail, manufacturing and finance was $ 48, 250 yearly.
Hence, PSWs earn considerably less than the average income of Canadians throughout the country.
Further, personal support workers are required to perform labour-intensive tasks such as bathing, toileting, lifting, dispensing of medications, light housekeeping and virtually any daily living (ADL) tasks that their clients cannot complete independently.
Charmaine Kelegan, a Toronto-area PSWs and member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) states:
“The average PSW at my agency makes $ 18, 423 per year. On that wage there is no room to put aside anything for savings or a pension. We are unionized and even though our wages would be considered poverty-level by many people, we make a lot more than other personal support workers.” (11)
Kelegan goes on to assert:
“Across Ontario there are tens of thousands of home care personal care workers that don’t belong to a union. Most make the personal support worker minimum wage of $ 12.50 an hour that was ok’d by the province nearly 7 years ago. Most do not get paid for travel time between two clients. Some even have to pay for their own transportation and gas. That is not a living wage.”(12)
The government of Ontario has therefore endeavoured to resolve the issue by raising the minimum hourly salary for PSWs to $ 16.50.
This is to ensure that workers employed within the field are given a more equitable wage to support themselves and their families.
When contacted for the purposes of this article, three healthcare employment agencies in the National Capital Region indicated that their pay rate varies slightly depending on the level of experience that the candidate has,
hourly wages through them are approximately $13.00 – $ 14.00 per hour for PSWs.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE AGENCY TO WORK FOR
Considering the most effective ways in which you can choose an employment agency to register with is an important component for your success.
Selecting an agency requires that you consider a wide range of factors that can influence your likelihood of success in securing employment.
The average city features approximately dozens of health care agencies, hence the onus is on you to evaluate the opportunities and general service that staffing companies will provide.
Here is a list of suggestions that can help PSWs seeking jobs achieve the aforementioned objective:
- Research staffing agencies: Ascertaining exactly which fields an agency specializes in should take place prior to registration.
- Find out what an agency’s pay structure is: Clearly, knowing what the pay rate is at a given firm is an important and often determining factor when seeking employment.
- Ascertain how long the company you’d like to enroll with has been in business: Like all firms, the longer one has been in operation, the more likely it has developed a client base and implemented practices that have enabled it to remain successful in the industry it operates in.
- Search online to find out whether the agency is a large outfit or a small start-up company: Knowing beforehand what size of agency you wish to work for will increase the likelihood of a potential job.
- Read online reviews of the agency to find out what current and past employees’ opinions of the company are: In any industry, satisfied and/or dissatisfied customers will often take to the Internet to voice their views on an organization, hence the Web is a good source of information regarding the quality of service an agency provides.
- Determine whether or not the agency offers resume writing assistance, computer training and interview skills coaching: Working with such agency will help you hone your resume and interview skills. This will give you an edge when looking for a permanent position.
- Ask friends, family, acquaintances and individuals that are currently employed in the field about their personal experiences with a given agency: People are often truthful when it comes to discussing their experience with a particular employer. Therefore talk to them to get valuable information that can help someone searching for a position.
THE ART OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT AGENCY
As with many companies, employment agencies have the primary objective of making a profit.
The industry earns billions of dollars per annum and with contractual work becoming increasingly popular, their profits will rise significantly in the next few decades.
However, from your perspective, the focus is simply to secure a position.
Thus, the onus is on you, the Personal Support Worker, to find an agency that does not only place an emphasis on the bottom line, but focuses on helping you achieve your career goals.
Here are a few tips that experts agree can help prospective agency employees in the health care field find firms that will facilitate them in achieving the aforementioned criteria:
- Ensure that the agency effectively communicates with you: The extent to which personnel at a firm engages with potential registrants is often apparent from the first cold call you make when seeking an appointment or interview. Being mindful of the interpersonal skills of recruiters and their attitude towards those already enrolled with them frequently proves to be beneficial in terms of one’s job search.
- Ascertain whether or not an agency has solid relationships with their clients. A positive working relationship with employers is often crucial when working with an employment agency.
- Ensure that you are viewed as a valued partner within the organization. While job seekers clearly do not hold a position within the agency’s hierarchal staff structure itself, registrants should feel as though they are collaborating with the agency to achieve his or her objectives with respect to their job search.
- Go with your instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable working for a given agency, it will inevitably have a negative impact on your ability to obtain a position through them. As there are many agencies to choose from in most cities, you should conduct your own “interview” of firms in order to find one that is the best fit for your career and general personality.
WHY WORK WITH AN AGENCY?
There are always what are generally referred to as “pros and cons” inherent in all industries in the private and public sector with respect to both direct hiring and agency positions.
Thus, being aware of the positive and negative aspects of working through an employment firm will aid PSWs who are considering the best method to employ in order to obtain a job.
The following are a list of the advantages and disadvantages involved in working through agencies:
- Working with agencies often results having many short-term contracts that enables PSWs to keep their skills sharp.
- Agency work provides PSWs with the opportunity to gain experience in a wide variety of facilities in both the public and private sector.
- Working through staffing firms offers you the ability to do full-time hours.
- Placements often lead PSWs to make valuable and useful contacts that can be useful.
- Any work, regardless of it is through an agency, will provide you with an income. Having a position through a staffing firm will enable you to earn wages, subsequently supporting yourself and your family.
- Agency assignments allows you to enjoy a level of flexibility that those employed in a permanent, long-term position do not have. Having the option to work or not work depending on your family commitments and lifestyle is beneficial.
- Majority of agency jobs do not offer security or benefits. Thus, those who prefer jobs that enable them to take vacations and be allotted sick days may not feel as though employment through them accommodates their needs.
- The positions offered are often temporary. While some jobs are indefinite and can continue for years, the vast majority of them have a pre-determined end date.
- Those working for agencies have reported that they are, in some instances, treated poorly by full-time, permanent staff members. Because an agency employee is often new, you do not have the opportunity to establish a working relationship with colleagues or a reputation for being a reliable worker, hence the onus is on you to continually prove yourself at whatever new position you have been placed in.
- There is a lack of certainty regarding one’s income. The nature of most of the positions is that they are relatively short-term and one can be let go at any time. Hence, agency employees are often faced with the difficulty of living on pay that is inconsistent.
- Because agencies deduct a fee from the hourly wage of those employed with them, workers often receive low pay, particularly in home care placements.
WORKING FOR MULTIPLE AGENCIES
When registering with an agency, you must be conscious of the fact that there will be instances where there are no positions available that meet your criteria or skill set.
Like all industries, agencies experience a “high” and “low” season that results in less jobs being available for those seeking them, especially PSWs who are new and have therefore not established a solid reputation with the agency they are employed with.
Because of the uncertainty that is inherent in the employment agency industry sphere, you can and should fortify yourself by registering with multiple agencies.
Having a contingency plan that involves making yourself available for jobs at several different firms is often beneficial in terms of earning a relatively consistent income.
Also, having a steady flow of work enables you to ensure that your resumes do not become stagnant. You also maintain a necessary level of exposure that will strengthen your skills.
Here are 3 tips experts recommend that can help you successfully manage working through multiple agencies:
- Do not apply for the same position through both an agency and the company itself. Doing so may ultimately negate your chances of obtaining the position altogether.
- If two agencies contact you for the same position, it is advisable for you to accept the assignment through the agency that offers the pay and general parameters that best fits you professional needs.
- If asked to sign a representation agreement, it is best for you to agree to doing so in order to effectively mitigate potential problems that can arise.
In conclusion, embarking on a career in the health care field is widely considered to be both a fulfilling and worthwhile experience.
Health care professionals such as RNs, RPNs and PSWs are able to work in jobs that enable them to provide care to those who are in need and provide support to those who require to recuperate, live independently or end their days in both comfort and dignity.
However, while the overall objective of health workers is generally the same, the methods those in the field have the choice to employ in order to achieve it differ significantly.
Have you ever worked for an agency? Tell us about your experience, good and bad, in the comments below.