Torrington businesses aim to help people find long-term jobs

TORRINGTON — What’s old is new again.

Alternative Employment Inc. Local Recruiter it’s been around since 1992, but had a ribbon cutting ceremony last week.

“It’s actually a new location,” said president Alison Blackwood, who succeeded her father and company co-founder Jeff Blackwood two years ago. The Personnel Office moved from 883 Main St. at 16 Bird St. in October 2022. The ribbon-cutting marks the move as well as Allison Blackwood’s succession to the leadership position, she said.

She was joined at the ceremony by Mayor Eleanor Carbone, Northwest CT Chamber of Commerce Membership Chair DJ Murphy, Economic Development Director Rista Malanka and other AEI staff members.

Even before AEI, Jeff Blackwood founded Blackwood Associates Inc. in the late 1970s as “your traditional headhunting firm,” his daughter said. “It went through several versions and was a franchise, and then he bought it and made it his own.”

In 1992, he started AEI with several partners to complement the recruitment business. Alternative Employment Staffing, as it’s often called, offers clients an alternative to hiring people themselves, she said.

What sets AEI apart is its focus on long-term job placement. Many staffing agencies focus on day laborers, and AEI addresses that as well, she said. “But what we prefer to do is really focus more on what’s the best behavior and personality, so that we put people in positions where they will eventually be hired permanently,” she said.

On average, AEI places between 50 and 60 applicants a week, and about 85 percent end up being hired as permanent employees, she said. Applicants are placed in a variety of positions, including manufacturing, clerical, administrative, nonprofit, public sector and professional, she said.

Applicants are encouraged to look for jobs where they are likely to succeed, she said.

“We give them a coaching resume. We’re working with them on how to have a successful interview conversation, but also making sure they’re thinking about where do they want to be in the end?” Blackwood said.

Job seekers are often eager to try any job, she said, and that puts them at risk of landing a job they’re not suited for.

“I tell them, ‘Don’t say yes today.’ It should be yes tomorrow and yes next month too. So instead of just trying something, let’s make sure we find something that will really work and be successful for everyone,” she said.

Blackwood said a man AEI hired as a machine operator several years ago is still in that position and has also brought his new wife to AEI to help her find a job.

“He said if it wasn’t for us helping him secure this position, his life would be in a very different place,” she said. “So when it came time to help his wife move back to the area and get settled and find something, he knew he wanted her to work with us.

AEI also helps companies with small or overburdened human resources departments, she said. Marketing, recruiting, interviewing, recruiting and retaining talent are tasks that many businesses find overwhelming, so having our service and team take on some of that workload can be very valuable so they can focus on to all the other myriad of HR functions they have to perform,” she said.

Alison Blackwood spent 20 years “leading and developing people in the nonprofit, hospitality and financial industries across the country,” according to AEI’s website.

“I am thrilled to be home in NW Connecticut and a second-generation owner of AEI Staffing,” she said. “I love this job because we get to see the impact every day of getting businesses the talent they need to be successful, getting our friends and neighbors doing work that improves their lives, and how the two together can uplift our community,” she also states on the website.

“I love the idea that we’re helping people with what’s really a challenge,” she said.

When she or another AEI team member interviews a candidate, they try to help them discover their hidden talents.

“We can talk to them and say, ‘There’s a lot more to you than you let on. right So that’s what your skills really are,” Blackwood said.

She wants candidates to believe that “this is not just a job,” she said. “Anyone can have a career, no matter what industry or skill level they are in. It’s about what do you want to do long-term?’

For more information about Alternative Employment Inc., call 860-489-1463 or visit

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