Need employees? These groups have them

Made in New Jersey’s Positive Workforce Alternatives panel represent workers you may not have thought of — for manufacturing or elsewhere

It’s the lament of nearly every company in every sector of the economy: We want to hire more staff, but we can’t find anyone.

The Made in New Jersey Manufacturing Day event last Friday took on the topic, presenting leaders of organizations with employees that are ready, willing, eager and able to work. And, while the Positive Workforce Alternatives panel was geared toward the manufacturing sector, the groups would be able to place workers in almost any industry.

One by one, leaders from organizations that work to place veterans (and their families), those on the autism spectrum and those with disabilities explained not only how their organizations can help — but how they already are helping those taking advantage of their services.

Employees that fill positions and fit needs.

David Hargrave, Army Reserve employment specialist for P3 – Private Public Partnership, said a military career is great training for any number of roles.

“We’ve got airline pilots, doctors, nurses, logisticians, fuelers, mechanics — there’s a variety of jobs that they’re doing in the military that lend themselves to manufacturing,” he said.

Ann Marie Sullivan, the CEO of Spectrum Works, said those on the autism spectrum (and there are 5.4 million adults who are) already are working in a variety of roles.

“Forty-four percent of people on the spectrum have average or higher than average intelligence — I think people don’t know that,” she said. “But companies are beginning to see the potential of people on the spectrum as great employees.”

She noted information technology sector companies such as Microsoft, SAP and Ernst & Young have set up specific programs to hire people on the spectrum in IT positions, engineering, accounting and various other types of jobs.

Spectrum Works, she said, will work with employers and the hires throughout the process, even maintaining assistance after they have taken the job.

And Sullivan notes that studies show those on the spectrum stay longer — and have a better attendance rate.

Employment Horizons CEO Lisa Montalbano said her organization will help supply workers — or will supply a workforce for you, if you want to bring your needs to the manufacturing fulfillment center it has at its Cedar Knolls headquarters.

“Lots of manufacturers that are our partners find it beneficial to outsource critical parts of their operation that may be harder to do it in house: packaging, assembly, labeling,” she said.

The work can be temporary, such as a project, seasonal or full-time, Montalbano said.

Here’s a quick look at the four who presented:

Bob Smyth, Bridging the Gap: Smyth, a former commissioned officer and reservist, said he knows first-hand the skills veterans have. Now he’s working to connect veterans — and their spouses — with companies.

His group helps transition people to go from a Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, to civilian roles, he said.

Smyth said he has worked with hundreds of companies in the mid-Atlantic in the past five years and is eager to add more.

Reach Smyth at

Hargrave: “Our mission is to provide employment and training opportunities for Army Reserve soldiers, their spouses, their kids and veterans,” he said.

Hargrave said he ready and eager to market the job needs of companies to those in his group, which includes about 4,000 Army Reserve soldiers (and their families) and 6,000 members of the National Guard.

Hargrave said companies are welcome to join him at meetings, enabling him them to present directly to potential hires.

There is no fee for the service.

Reach Hargrave at

Montalbano: While her organization is celebrating its 65th year, Montalbano is celebrating her 25th, including her first as CEO.

“This is my life’s passion,” she said. “Helping companies find a great solution to some of their workforce needs by hiring people with disabilities.”

Montalbano said the manufacturing sector is one of the two sectors in which the organization places employees the most.

In addition to the in-house fulfillment center, Montalbano said she has placed some of her 450 workers doing cleaning and office staff roles, too.

Reach Montalbano at

Sullivan: Sullivan said the organization has a unique co-locating business model, meaning Spectrum Works personnel not only meet with companies to create a plan that works for a business, they go on site during the training and after the hire — whether it be for an internship, part-time or full-time job.

The company has job coaches that learn the job first, then help teach the hire.

Spectrum Works also trains those at the company.

“We educate the C-level and supervisors and employees about employing people on the spectrum and why they should embrace it — and why they shouldn’t feel worried or scared,” she said.

“Most of the companies that we work with have found that their employees love the program. They get the opportunity to be a mentor — and they feel good about working for a company that actually cares and is creating an empathetic workforce.”

Reach Sullivan at