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Help for the jobless, workerless

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand The SOS Employment Group offices are located in the basement of the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce building along Third Avenue West on Dickinson's south side.1 / 2
SOS branch manager AJ Hitchcock works in her office.2 / 2

Finding the right employment fit can be just as hard in western North Dakota as it is in places without a booming economy.

While there are more jobs to choose from, the perfect job might be harder to find.

SOS Employment Group, a national staffing firm that opened an office in Dickinson in August, focuses on finding the right employment fit for both the employer and the employee.

"I think we have such a great influx of people coming to Dickinson, specifically, that my goal is to get them here first so I can utilize that talent that's coming in and get it out into the community," said AJ Hitchcock, branch manager at SOS in Dickinson.

The 40-year-old company acts as a staffing consultant for the companies it works with, and provides essential staffing services such as safety training or orientation.

"They take all the pain out of finding a job," Jacob Hatzenbuhler of Dickinson said.

He was doing orientation for a job he had found through SOS at the office on Oct. 8.

"I didn't want to spend a week trying to find a job," Hatzenbuhler said. "I came here and you guys had me lined up in ... 40 hours?"

SOS is located in offices in the basement of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, one of the first stops for community newcomers.

"We have a great relationship with them up there," Hitchcock said. "They can stop in there and just walk out the door and in our door."

In North Dakota, SOS primarily works with the oil industry. But once its offices are more established in the state -- in addition to the Dickinson branch, SOS has offices in Minot and Williston -- it hopes to spread into other industries, Hitchcock said.

"That's the meat and potatoes of what we're doing in North Dakota," Hitchcock said, "but we're also here to help the local businesses that need people for production."

They staff the service sector of the oil industry -- meaning people on the ground, not high-risk positions like those on drilling rigs.

The company does short- and long-term temporary hiring, temp-to-hire and direct placement, Hitchcock said.

"I'm not here to just show up and say, 'Here's our service, you need us, let's go to work,'" Hitchcock said. "I want to really delve into what a company needs, what a company views as success, what a company is looking for, and then let them know about us up front, tell them what their options are and then together, decide if we want to work together."

SOS can be a time saver for employers, Hitchcock said.

"I shoot them a resume and they determine if they want to interview that person, the person goes out and it becomes 15 minutes of my client's time interviewing, and an hour and a half of our time onboarding," Hitchcock said. "Then they just show up for work."

Hitchcock began working for SOS in Dickinson at about the same time her husband, Bob, was completing his employment for Haw's Point. But she was so impressed with the company and the opportunities that both she and her husband had that the two decided to live separately for six months while AJ was setting up SOS.

"We came to Dickinson and this was it," AJ said. "We fell in love with the town the minute we got off the plane and we were never going to leave."

After the management company that Bob worked for cut ties with Hawks Point, they asked him to move to Washington, where the couple had previously lived.

"The deal was I'm opening the branch for them -- I got the facility set up, I hired a staffing manager and I'm being trained," AJ said. "When that's all done and we get to the first of the year, someone else will step into this position -- it might be my staffing manager, it might be someone else for the company -- and then I will go out to Washington and hopefully do the same thing for them again."

SOS Employment Group

AJ Hitchcock and Luther Brown

314 3rd Ave. W.

Dickinson, ND 58601

Phone: 701-225-6132

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
(701) 456-1206