Ray Newby had no trouble landing a job, but finding permanent employment has been a different story.
Newby, 34, signed up with a temporary employment agency after he completed an electrical engineering degree at Kansas University in August. Newby, who had gone back to school to get the credential, also has a degree in sociology.
``The job market hasn't been that good and I just need to pay some bills,'' he said of his reasons for becoming a temp. The scope of his job search has been narrowed by the fact that his wife is working on a doctorate at KU and he's committed to staying in the area for another three to four years.
Managers of local temporary agencies, who lament a shortage of temporary workers in Lawrence, say they're glad to have people like Newby, who's worked the past six weeks on the second shift at Garage Door Group.
Demand for people to fill temporary assignments at light industries is particularly high in Lawrence, the agency managers say.
However, Newby, who likes the flexibility of working the 3:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, isn't likely to be a temp for long. ``It allows me to look for a job in the morning,'' he said of his swing shift assignment.
Working as a temp also offers stopgap employment above the minimum wage, he said. ``Generally I think most temporary agencies are paying around $5 an hour and it goes up from there.''
Newby fits one profile of a temp in Lawrence, say agency managers. They add that many temps ultimately get a permanent job in workplaces where they've had temporary assignments.
Betty Richie, who's accepted secretarial and clerical temp assignments off and on for the past 15 years, says she has often been offered jobs as the result of her performance during a temporary placement.
``I have certainly used the temporary services in the past to find a full-time job because you can check the company out,'' Richie said. ``It's a good way for the employer to get to know you and for you to get to know the company.''
Elaine Nelson, assistant vice president of Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Assn., said her company doesn't use temps to shop for future hires but temps who've done well in assignments at Sallie Mae will get first consideration for permanent jobs.
``If there are job openings that occur, they have the inside edge over anyone else who applies because we know their work,'' Nelson said.
Richie, who isn't interested in a permanent job these days, also fits one of the standard temp profiles: She enjoys the flexibility of setting her own hours.
``We've had some temps offered full-time jobs who didn't want them,'' said Shirley Martin-Smith, who owns a permanent employment agency and the local ADIA Personnel Services franchise.
However, agency managers and temps say that people who do temporary work long term often have a working spouse who provides a second source of income and health insurance benefits.
Local agencies in Lawrence make health insurance available to workers and at least one pays part of the premium. However, most pass it up either because they have other insurance or can't afford it.
``For me the salary isn't high enough for me to be able to afford it,'' said Newby, who has no other insurance.
Most agencies also provide vacation and holiday pay for temps who accumulate specified numbers of hours on the job. The package at Manpower Temporary Services is typical: Employees who've been there two years and worked 1,500 hours the first year and 1,800 hours the second, receive two weeks' vacation.
``We do have several people who have received their two weeks' vacation,'' said Nancy Slabaugh, manager of the Lawrence Manpower office.