Harborquest was founded in 1970 on Chicago's North Side by its current president, John Plunkett, and a group of friends who believed that grassroots social activism can make a real difference in people's lives. The organization began as Just Jobs, Inc. with the goal of bringing justice to the temporary help industry.
Just Jobs soon became the country's first non-profit to run a temporary staffing service focused on creating employment opportunities for residents of low-income, inner city neighborhoods. It provided these workers with decent living wages and ensured that their overtime hours, unemployment compensation claims, workers' compensation claims and taxes withheld were properly processed and paid. By 1976, Just Jobs had earned the James Brown IV Award for Excellence in Community Service from the Chicago Community Trust.
By 1986, the organization had a top share of the light industrial contracting market in the Chicago region and employed more than 800 people per day. By the 1990s, most light industrial manufacturing jobs had moved from the city to the suburbs, so Just Jobs responded by providing long-term transportation to low-income workers. The name of the organization was changed to Suburban Job-Link in 1991 to reflect this focus on transportation.
In 1995, with funding from the (Chicago) Mayor's Office of Workforce Development and the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Suburban Job-Link established the Job Oasis facility in Bensenville, Illinois. (Bensenville, a suburb northwest of Chicago, is a warehouse and manufacturing center near O'Hare airport.) The Job Oasis provided a realistic connection between city jobseekers and suburban employers. It provided job search and transportation assistance to workers who previously had no access to entry-level/lower-skilled jobs beyond the reach of public transportation. One such innovative business/community partnership with a large suburban firm resulted in Suburban Job-Link receiving the 1999 Masterworks Award from the Council on Foundations and the Dayton Hudson Foundation (now the Target Foundation).
In 2003, Suburban Job-Link merged with STRIVE Chicago Employment Service, Inc., an internationally recognized training program based on the successful STRIVE* model operating in New York since 1984. Every Harborquest member begins by participating in STRIVE Chicago's intensive job-readiness program, which includes at least 100 hours of work preparation in a classroom setting, and one-on-one counseling to help them overcome a variety of barriers to employment.
As one of 22 STRIVE affiliates in the United States, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Israel, STRIVE Chicago is the longest-running affiliate outside of New York. As a result of the merger, Harborquest is Chicago's only licensed provider of this powerful, paradigm-shifting training model.
In 2005, as a result of the merger, we changed our name to Harborquest, Inc., to reflect our commitment to bringing disadvantaged Chicagoans hope through job opportunities, and providing a "port in the storm" through tough economic times.
Harborquest has provided temporary work experience to nearly 40,000 Chicago-area residents. We have also helped more than 15,000 earn regular full-time jobs with other employers. Today, we're offering new services, such as our 20/20 View - a trial-basis placement service that lets employers assess applicants' performance at their workplaces before committing to hiring them for full-time positions.
Staffing services has always been a tough industry. Yet Harborquest has managed to be successful despite a constantly changing labor market by giving businesses the individual services they need to be successful.
Harborquest remains fully committed to simultaneously serving our workers and raising the staffing industry's standards for integrity, professionalism and human resource development. – less–ZoomInfo