Supplying the suppliers

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Felecia Cole was looking for a new job and got a little extra help to get it.
She turned to SRG – an acronym for Stevens Resource Group – a staffing company that helps people get jobs. But not just any job. SRG, founded in 1990 in Canada by Sherri Stevens, quietly opened an office in Tupelo last year. Its major focus – training people to get jobs with Toyota suppliers.
“We’re a workforce management company,” Stevens said. “We recruit, train and place potential team members into the Tier 1 and Tier 1 auto companies supplying Toyota.”
Cole heard about SRG at a job fair, and after training with the company, she applied for – and got – a job at Toyota Boshoku, a Tier 1 supplier in Dorsey that will make door seats, door panels and sun visors for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi in Blue Springs.
“I’m a quality control inspector; I’ll be looking at the car seats,” she said. “I’ll be the last person to see the seats before they go to Toyota.”
Cole said the training she got at SRG – which lasts about a week – was an immense help in landing a job with Boshoku. Some classroom training is involved, along with hands-on training in the specialized skills center. The center, attached to the back of SRG’s office, has several work stations mimicking what goes on at an automotive supplier. As expected the famed Toyota Production System is emphasized heavily.
That inside knowledge was very beneficial, Cole said.
“They show you what you need to do, what you need to know,” she said of the SRG trainers. “Most importantly, they sit down and explain everything.”
For the 2,000 or so jobs expected to be needed once Toyota Mississippi is fully operational, suppliers are culling through thousands of applications to hire qualified workers. TMMMS is scheduled to open in the fall, with hundreds of workers employed in at least three Northeast Mississippi-based suppliers.
Stevens said the training is free. Suppliers, like other employers who pay staffing agencies, pay SRG.
Applicants can go to SRG’s office on Graham Drive or go online.
An application doesn’t guarantee placement in the training program. They must go through a three-phase process in order to qualify to be part of SRG’s skills center training.
“It includes a series of aptitude tests and other testing,” Stevens said. “It’s a fair investment of their time.”
But, she said, “this gives them a leg up. It’s not a guarantee they’ll get a job with a supplier, but it does give them confidence and knowledge.”
Andrea Mobley, a skills trainer at SRG, said the people who have gone through training have come from a variety of backgrounds.
“We’ve had clerical, professional, some with manufacturing experience, some without … it’s a wide range,” she said.
SRG has trained more than 400 people in Tupelo since it opened last year, and many of them now work for a Toyota supplier as well as Toyota.
Chris Spence, president of Tier 1 supplier Diversity-Vuteq in New Albany, has worked extensively with SRG.
“They are testing applicants for us utilizing their skills center,” he said. “Candidates are trained and then tested, the results become part of our evaluation of candidates. We have had about 150 people go through the process.”
Stevens has had a long working relationship with Toyota and it suppliers.
“We were first approached by a supplier in Canada who wanted us to supply 20 production team members,” she said.
Soon, other suppliers came to her, and SRG has been busy since.
While the company started in Canada, Stevens moved the company’s headquarters to Tupelo.
“The skills center we have in Tupelo we don’t have in Canada,” she said. “The opportunity never really presented it before, so this is a first. There was a need to have something like this.”
And for Cole, the skills center at SRG helped open a door to a new opportunity, too.
“I was looking for a big change, something different, and now I don’t see this as a job, but as a career.”

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