O'Hara-based Peak Technical Staffing USA puts specialists to work
When Uptown-based Orbital Engineering Inc. eyed an East Coast refinery contract but lacked personnel to submit a solid enough bid, it filled the gap — and won the job — through the help of Peak Technical Staffing USA.
The O'Hara company recruits hard-to-find engineers and other technical professionals who work on a contract basis.
“Peak has brought people to us on very short notice, within days, so we are able to bid a job and deliver on it,” said Orbital CEO Greg Babe, though he would not detail the East Coast project last year for competitive reasons.
Peak Technical serves clients in 36 states and Canada from 11 offices; 10 in the United States and one in Calgary. With a database of about 300,000 technical professionals, it provides contract workers for many sectors, including utilities, petrochemical, transportation and infrastructure, and manufacturing.
At any time, more than 8,000 of these professionals have been vetted and are ready for placement, Peak Technical says.
“Anybody who thinks there's an engineering shortage in this country hasn't talked to us,” said CEO Joseph V. Salvucci.
This year, the company plans to expand its contract staffers' capabilities, he said, but he won't telegraph the strategy. Peak Technical expects revenue to increase more than 30 percent from the $62 million it took in last year.
“Contracting is growing because no company can afford to keep these specialists on staff all the time,” Salvucci said.
A civil engineer by training, Salvucci joined Peak Technical in 1978, 10 years after his father founded the firm. The younger Salvucci bought the firm in 1986 and remains sole owner.
The contract workers — or “recruits,” as Peak Technical calls them — receive pay and benefits from Peak Technical while working for client companies. Once a client's project concludes, the contract worker is laid off, unless Peak Technical finds another client for him or her.
Companies such as Peak Technical employed an average of 2.9 million people last year, a 4.1 percent increase from 2011, according to the American Staffing Association. It estimates one in 10 non-farm workers in 2011 worked for a temp staffing company at some point during the year.
The association said 58 percent of industrial companies commonly use contract employees, such as engineers.
Peak Technical's growth in 2012 included opening a New York office to provide workers for mass transit and relief needs tied to Hurricane Sandy, as well as petroleum-related professionals to tar-sand projects in Alberta.
“Oil and gas has been active for us,” Salvucci said. “That trend really started last year. Some of it is Marcellus shale.”
About 75 of its technical staffers work in Western Pennsylvania and nearly 200 statewide, he said.
One of them is John Cox, a structural engineer from Colorado on a January-June assignment with Westinghouse Electric Co. in Cranberry. He is a lead engineer on the nuclear power company's reinforced concrete structure for its AP1000 nuclear reactor.
“You get good, solid engineering work to do and don't get bogged down in supervisory work,” said Cox, a Peak Technical contractor since 2005. Most assignments last from one month to one year, he said.
“What appeals to me is that it's flexible and you don't get locked into an organization, working for promotions and raises,” Cox said. “You get it all up front and when you're done, you move on.”
Peak Technical President Kevin Kutzavitch said the increasingly specialized needs of companies have fueled the contract-worker industry's growth for many years. That challenges the firm to find the right recruits.
“There are emerging technologies out there that we've never recruited for before who must be highly specialized,” said Kutzavitch, citing Oklahoma companies looking for methanol engineers as an example.
Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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