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May 2005

UCAR casual pool fills in when needed


Lisa Goodrich. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Lisa Goodrich is a dancer who performs and teaches, and she helps run a Boulder-based aerial dance company known as Frequent Flyers Productions. But that kind of work doesn’t pay well.

So she’s carved out the perfect situation: working occasional hours in the UCAR casual pool. Lately she’s been assigned to RAL, where she pours over radar plots to spot discrepancies between ground and airborne observations.

“It’s worked out great. This is a way to pay the bills but not commit to full-time work,” Lisa says. “It’s a good environment, and I really enjoy working with the people here.”

It’s been three years since HR put together a pool of part-time workers who departments and programs can tap for occasional administrative work. Nancy Wade, employment administrator in HR, came up with the idea as an alternative to using temp agencies. The program offers two big advantages to the organization: UCAR managers save money because they don’t have to pay fees to a temp agency, and the UCAR casuals gain familiarity with organizational procedures and norms as they work with various groups.

The casual pool is intended for times when an employee is out on vacation or leave, or when someone is needed to help with a special project. Managers should still call temp agencies for last minute or short-term assignments, Nancy stresses.

“This gives us a pool of people who are trained in UCAR policies and procedures,” Nancy explains. “They can come in and hit the ground running.”

Nancy has recruited the casuals at job fairs and through an ad on HR’s career opportunities Web site. Casual pool employees are hired through a competitive process, which includes an interview and reference checks.

“They can come in and hit the ground running.”

—Nancy Wade

As with all new hires, they learn about UCAR by attending new employee orientation. They’re also eligible for career development classes on such subjects as Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, and Access if those classes help them improve their skills for a current assignment.

The casuals are paid on a three-tiered scale, depending on whether they do work comparable to an administrative assistant I (such as filing and reception), II (arranging travel or extensive typing), or III (working with complex spreadsheets or editing). These casual employees do not receive UCAR benefits and may work no more than 1,000 hours in a calendar year.

High marks

Lisa says she prefers the casual pool to working for temp agencies. “Working temp jobs, you never know what you’re walking into,” she says. “And the environment here is more humane than in the corporate world.”

UCAR managers give the pool high marks. “It’s a marvelous thing,” says Scott Briggs, an administrative assistant in ASP. Scott turned to one of the casuals last year to videotape a colloquium, and he has also used casuals for basic office tasks such as filling envelopes. “I feel much more comfortable talking to Nancy and having her find somebody than calling a temp agency,” he says. “An agency is less familiar with our needs, and they don’t seem to know if they can have anybody right away.”

The program has been so successful that UCAR started a second casual pool for Event Services, using the workers to help in the cafeterias and at receptions. “It’s worked very effectively for us,” says Mari Bradley, director of Event Services. “We’re training the casuals in our system, so when they come in for the job it’s not like throwing in a new person every time.”

She tries to maintain a pool of about 16 people. Most are in school or have other jobs, and they’re looking for a little extra money. In a few cases, however, the casuals are hoping to get a foot in the door and eventually land a permanent job here.

“I like NCAR and being with a scientific group of people,” says Norina Arabshian-Hunter, one of the casuals who is looking for full-time work.

Nancy is thinking about launching a third pool for technical services, such as computer programmers and systems administrators.

“In our budget times, this has been helpful to the organization,” she says. “The key is finding people who truly want to work sporadically or on an as-needed basis and then balancing the scheduling and availability between the casual pool employees and those who need someone to do the work.”

• by David Hosansky

Also in this issue...

Playing it Safe

Spring Fling '05

SERE news

UCAR casuals

Taking the LEAD

Delphi question

Just One Look


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