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What does wetland ecology have to do with high tech? Everything, if you know how to use technology correctly.

What does wetland ecology have to do with high tech? Everything, if you use that technology to find a forestry job. New Britain-based Strongin Technical Enterprises of Pennsylvania (STEP Inc.) works in tandem with Doylestown-based LookFirst technology to offer job-seekers an edge with its multimedia presentation methods of presenting job seekers to employers. STEP’s president, Kenneth A. Strongin, PEC, talked recently about the company and the market it serves.

When and why was STEP Inc. founded?

Strongin Technical Enterprises of Pennsylvania Inc. was founded in 1993 to provide personnel resources to various professional related fields–technical and engineering. Since then, the firm has grown into a network of consultants with more than 50 combined years of providing employment expertise specifically to the infrastructure industry. STEP introduces thousands of qualified job seekers to employers throughout the Mid-Atlantic States region, from New York state to Virginia. We work from a database of more than 25,000 applicants and 2,000 employers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware alone. With those resources at our disposal, STEP is the No. 1 placement firm in the infrastructure industry for the tri-state area.

When you say you cater to the infrastructure industry, what do you mean?

The infrastructure industry encompasses all aspects of civil and environmental fields, including civil and environmental engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, design and drafting, land development and surveying, highway and traffic, construction, water/wastewater remediation (including stormwater), geo-technical, and much more. All of these functions contribute to the growth and development of a particular area and its productivity, such as making more jobs available.

Tell me how you help both job-seekers and companies looking for workers. The LookFirst.net technology allows STEP’s client companies and applicants to see each other, without actually meeting, and answer a series of pointed questions about their requirements or qualifications. This is a huge time saver for all involved. Potential applicants have the opportunity to get a foot in the door and let some of their personality and communication skills come out. Employers have a tool to help them clearly articulate information about their company, positions, qualifications needed, and so on.

What are some of the techniques you use to match employers to job candidates?

STEP consultants use a number of screening tools to help job seekers land interviews at companies that spark their interest and meet their qualifications. They conduct extensive phone interviews with each applicant who applies through STEP. They also perform reference checks on almost every applicant. By discussing a number of deciding factors–such as location, salary-range, and work and educational background–STEP consultants are able to gather information and distinguish the character of an applicant, which will ultimately determine if an applicant is ideal for a position at one of our client companies.

Tell me more about STEP’s Video Résumé tool.

It’s powered by the LookFirst.net Technology program. Video Résumés and Video Job-Ops enable employers and job seekers to essentially meet each other prior to an interview, sort of like a step-up from a phone interview. The streaming video technology allows for the screening of a person’s presentation style and communication skills. The five questions the person is asked are designed to reveal an individual’s personality, work ethic, expectations, and other determining factors. This is a process that most employers have not seen before. Many employers exposed to this new technology are becoming accustomed to it. It speeds up the screening process and, therefore, saves time and money.

You offer employers a guarantee of your service. How can you guarantee that you’ll find the right person for them?

STEP consultants don’t determine who is right or wrong for a firm, only which job seekers are ideal for the industry. A good applicant, with excellent communication skills and a strong work ethic, will generally be seen by all of our clients as an asset to the industry. They do, however, need to have the basics. If an applicant studied wetland ecology in college, he or she is obviously not going to fit in a traffic engineering environment. But, a wetland ecologist with a great personality and feel for the industry might be useful in any multi-discipline environmental agency–and we have a number of clients that meet that description.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years. I’ve placed applicants in lifelong careers throughout the tri-state area. Many of the people I placed are now hiring managers, CEOs, and presidents of the companies that hire from us. I feel the support provided to STEP through these employers is its own guarantee.

Do you work primarily in the private sector, or do you have government clients as well?

Mostly in the private sector, but most of our client companies hire applicants through us specifically for government-funded projects.

Within the IT sector, which industries do you work with most frequently?

It’s limited to companies that require IT services as an adjunct to their main business.

From your point of view, what are some of the up-and-coming tech careers? Which ones seem to be fading?

Careers related to developing new applications for Web-based products for growing industries, such as infrastructure, are up and coming. Web site developers are fading.

What advice do you offer prospective job candidates who are fed up with the current job market? Any dos and don’ts?

In any industry, look for trends and go the extra mile to keep your skills and knowledge up to snuff. It’s a field that requires constant learning. Don’t get cocky or complacent.

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