The STAFFING ADVOCATE
A business needs the right people for a successful operation. Finding that fit is what makes Ellen Contreras happy as the business development manager for Manpower on the Treasure Coast. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO
BY JERRY SHAW
A healthy community often revolves around making the right connections between businesses and people seeking work. Ellen Contreras does this through her position as business development manager for Manpower in Port St. Lucie, covering St. Lucie County’s staffing needs.
Manpower provides workforce solutions that include recruitment, training and consultation to fit the needs of companies with the best possible employees. Helping people is part of what drives Contreras.
“It’s always been my thing in this job, what I love about it,” she says.
She expands her contributions to the Treasure Coast through her volunteer work, which includes educating about hiring the disabled and helping people improve their speaking skills.
When she was growing up, her parents were self-employed as owners of an engine remanufacturing firm for cars, boats and other products. She would often hear conversations between her parents and clients about new machines, repairs and supplies.
“So I understand both sides of the coin; that businesses, in order to run a good company, need good people,” she says. It makes her happy “to tell people you’ve got the job and make a good connection. That’s what drives me in this job.”
Contreras graduated magna cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average from Briarcliffe College in New York where she was valedictorian. Her background is in information technology and she has a Microsoft Certified System Engineer certification. She only later became involved in recruiting through a friend.
She moved to Florida in 2001 to be closer to her mother, who had rheumatoid arthritis. Her mother became an inspiration in her work matching disabled employees with employers. Though the disease made her disabled, she managed to get a job as a security guard, observing and reporting activities, and accepting packages at a gatehouse.
“Because of her disability she always felt there was something to prove,” Contreras notes. She ended up working the third shift at Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach on weekends. “She was a workhorse. Everybody at Piper loved her. Her disability didn’t matter.”
Many times disabled workers outperform able-bodied people, Contreras says.
“People who have a disability are just like you and I. They would never work in a job that is not suitable for them. When matched, they’re dedicated and motivated.”
Contreras met her husband, Omar, while her mother worked at Piper. Following his retirement, he formed his own company, distributing a pain relief lotion.
Contreras also has a background in sales and marketing, and when looking for a job on the Treasure Coast, she came across an opening at Manpower. She accepted a position with the countywide staffing agency five years ago in Port St. Lucie. There are also offices in Palm Beach Gardens, Stuart, Fort Pierce and Vero Beach.
Along with connecting prospective employees with local companies, Contreras serves as co-chairman for the Treasure Coast Business Leadership Network, a chapter of the national network. “It was formed with the sole purpose of helping people with disabilities to get jobs,” she explains.
The network holds three or four events each year in different parts of the Treasure Coast to educate businesses and hiring managers about the benefits of hiring the disabled and to dispel rumors. The events include successful people with disabilities.
A recent program highlighted a young man who is deaf. He was working for a logistics company, which added a flashing lights system for safety since he would not hear the fire alarm. Many companies can add essentials for the disabled at no cost, because there are agencies throughout Florida that will pay for the modifications, Contreras points out.
“I love doing (the events) and I always talk about my mom at each event,” she says. “It sets a good tone for the meeting.”
Her work with the leadership network is voluntary as is her position as vice president for membership with the St. Lucie County HR Association and her role as vice president of public relations for the Fort Pierce Toastmasters Club.
Toastmasters focuses on teaching people to improve their public speaking skills. Contreras says most people fear speaking in public more than facing an IRS audit.
“With public speaking, a lot of people don’t realize how important it is for their job,” she says. It could affect their performance and their abilities to get promotions. “It’s not as scary as they think.” Toastmasters has a program to help people build their speaking skills according to their own pace, which fits right in with Contreras’ goals of recruiting and maintaining employees for local businesses.
Family: Husband, Omar
Occupation: Business development manager for Manpower in Port St. Lucie, covering St. Lucie County
Lives in: Vero Beach.
Education: Briarcliffe College, N.Y., valedictorian, magna cum laude. Microsoft Certified System Engineer certification.
What inspires me: “I have always liked helping people.”
What I am proudest of: “I’m happy to have my education and to have that perfect 4.0 (score) as far as my academic career. I’m proud of the fact that I have grown, and been put in a position now to help people and give back to the community.”