BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused layoffs and job shortages across the country, but Staff Pro Workforce Solutions, a Biloxi-based company, is trying their best to get South Mississippians hired amidst the hardships.
“The amount of people that lost jobs because of the pandemic is unbelievable, “Abraham Martinez, a seafood industry worker, said. “I had a lot of friends and family that had no job for weeks maybe months.”
Martinez describes the struggles the Coast’s workforce has gone through throughout the health crisis, but he found much needed help through Staff Pro. Since Hurricane Katrina, the company has served as a haven, linking workers with jobs across the region.
“Staff Pro cares about people,” said Maria Langua, Corporate Director of Staffing and Workforce Development. “Sometimes people might feel discriminated. Sometimes people feel they’re not understood and we believe in giving everybody the opportunity to secure a job.”
Staff Pro offers work mainly in the hospitality and resort industry, pairing companies with the right fit for their vacancies.
In 2020 alone, the company has added around 800 jobs, with 70 percent of their workforce being women and 60 percent being black workers or workers with an immigrant-background.
“It’s all about talent,” said Mississippi Area Manager Monica Ellis. “It’s not about labels.”
That’s a quality that their workforce enjoys.
“If they have something available, they put you on it immediately,” said Thomas Lindsey, a casino industry worker. “Especially if you’re willing to do the work.”
The company also prides itself on being a Minority Owned Enterprise.
“We all have different points of view, that’s what makes us rich,” Langua said. “Using those skills that we brought from working in different industries. Having different cultural backgrounds is what makes us understand our employees better.”
Some workers said that’s important when you come to Mississippi from a different country.
“All of my bosses are American and it’s only English, no Spanish,” said Adela Gayatan, a casino industry worker.
The opportunity gives employees a sense of security and pride, especially after last year’s many low points.
“In my case, my coworkers tell me, ‘You are Latina. Why do you work?’ and it’s because we like working,” said Gayatan. “The public sees us working really well and people take note of that.”
While workers in Mississippi hope to get past the economic hardships of last year, Staff Pro leaders want to learn from 2020 and offer more opportunities to workers for years to come.
“After everything with COVID, we decided that we have to expand our business lines.” Ellis said.
The company has shifted to more jobs in the medical and service industries while also focusing on advancement opportunities.
“We have ladies that start out as a housekeeper, one of the most important positions sometimes in the hospitality business,” Ellis said. “Right now, they are managers. They are supervisors.”
While Staff Pro aims at making a bigger impact throughout the region, workers hope to soon see some relief from the economic and employment distress.
“I’m going to apply myself because I need to work,” said Thomas. I’m a grandfather now. I have to help my daughter the same with my grandchild. Not working is not an option for me.”