Companies investing in human resources in the 1990s will have an advantage over their competitors, especially if the projected labor shortage in the United States becomes a reality, according to Richard D. Reinhold, president of SOS Temporary Services.

Many of the jobs in the 1990s will be filled by older workers, women, minorities and immigrants. In the case of immigrants, some companies will provide literacy classes so they can communicate, Reinhold said.Reinhold, who recently completed a one-year term as president of the National Association of Temporary Services, said one of the national group's biggest accomplishments was the formation of an education committee to work with potential high school dropouts and encourage them to stay in school.

About 700,000 students drop out of high school annually, Reinhold said, bringing to 26 million the number of Americans classified as functionally illiterate. Each of NATS's 1,100 members are encouraged to help students remain in school so they can get good jobs, either temporary or full-time.

A 25-year veteran in the temporary services industry, Reinhold said his industry is well-aware of the need for skilled workers, ranging from doctors and pharmacists to secretaries and word processers. He said the temporary services industry wants to do its part in reducing the labor shortage that will become worse in the 1990s.

A $15 billion industry, temporary services will become a more integral way of doing business in the 1990s, Reinhold said. That's because a company creating a new job can fill it with a temporary employee, and if everything goes right the temporary job can be changed to a full-time position.

As an indication of the impact of temporary services in the United States, 6.5 million people worked for temporary service companies this year. And on any given day 1 million people are working at jobs obtained through temporary help services. In Utah, 50,000 people work temporary jobs through temporary service companies.

Not wanting to be confused with employment agencies or employee leasing companies, Reinhold said job-seekers register with temporary service companies. When requests come in for work, they are matched with the work needed. Temporary service companies bill the employer on an hourly basis, pay the employee an hourly wage and pocket the difference.

The average temporary assignment is three days, Reinhold said, and the average temporary service employee works for the company 173 hours annually. "Some people are not interested in full-time work and like the flexibility that temporary service companies offer," Reinhold said.

Reinhold, who went to Europe while president of NATS, said European countries use temporary help more extensively than American companies. That's because some European countries levy an "insincerity tax" on companies that terminate employees, so they hire more temporary help to avoid the tax.

In the 1970s, 90 percent of the temporary help was hired to react to an employment situation, but by the mid-1980s, 50 percent of the temporary help was planned. By the mid-1990s, Reinhold said, 75 percent of the temporary help will be planned.