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Temporary Workers


Throughout time, some people earned at least part of their income taking short jobs when the work was available. People even traveled to other towns for work, leaving their families behind. The National Association of Personnel Services dates the earliest private employment services to 14th-century Germany, though no detail is available regarding the type of work. Kelly Services Inc. was one of the first temporary staffing agencies in the United States. In 1946 its founder, William Russell Kelly, realized there was a great demand for office and clerical help in Detroit, Michigan. Businesses throughout town needed reliable help, though not on a daily basis. Kelly's first employees were housewives and students—two groups with very flexible schedules. They were able to accept or decline assignments as their schedules allowed.

Soon other temporary agencies were placing qualified workers in a variety of businesses. The first temps were mainly receptionists or clerical help; many had no skills other than those associated with secretarial work. Temporary workers are better prepared today—most are computer savvy and have solid work experience. Also, a large number of temps are professionals with backgrounds in law, accounting, or health care, and there is a growing trend for placement agencies to focus on one specific occupational group.

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