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Jobs Increasing Gradually, Qualified Applicants Scarce

Workforce Investment Board Assesses Job Growth in Santa Barbara County


The Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) partnered with BW Research Partnership Inc. in March 2011 to assess the employment needs of the county and better understand the county’s changing economy. In an employment forecast seminar conducted by WIB on Friday, leaders from a wide range of industries in Santa Barbara met to discuss the report and predict employment opportunities and economic growth in the near future.

According to the report, three out of every five Santa Barbara employers are having at least some difficulty finding qualified applicants with adequate industry experience. However, according to the survey of employers completed in June 2011, in general the employers were optimistic that employment would increase over the next two years. The report listed that the acumen lacking among their entry-level to mid-level recent hires was communication and professional writing skills.

Josh Williams, president of BW Research Partnership, gave a detailed summary of the employment forecast report and was optimistic but realistic about the road to recovery that Santa Barbara faces.

“This is not a jobless recovery, but rather a journey of recovery and understanding of how to make our county’s economy stronger,” said Williams. “We want to maintain the quality of life that Santa Barbara has while still bringing in new money and creating opportunities within the county to generate new jobs and continue with the growth that we have seen in the past couple of years.”

After several years of historically high unemployment rates since the recession hit the country in 2008, Santa Barbara County is looking to rebuild its economy. The report conducted by BW Research is meant to provide an up-to-date assessment of the key industries within Santa Barbara and focus on providing fresh perspectives on how to move the county’s workforce forward.

The primary research compiled for the report drew on a number of external sources, several regional occupational studies within Santa Barbara County, and on a quantitative survey of 317 Santa Barbara County employers in order to better understand not only the needs of the employers but also who the job seekers are and what training is necessary in order to make them competitive candidates.

The main workforce industries that show promise in Santa Barbara include technology and innovation, agriculture and tourism, and building and design. The seminar suggested that individuals seeking skills development or training programs should focus on the above industries since they are the ones that show the most economic promise in the next few years.

During the panel discussion, Dave Clark, president of Impulse Advanced Communications, recommended that if candidates want to be more competitive, they should seek to further their education and technical training in their specific industry.

“The employees that come in and succeed are the ones that have an inherent intellectual curiosity that is vital in the modern workforce,” said Clark. “People who are constantly seeking to educate themselves and are effective communicators are the ones that are going to stand out in a pool of applicants.”

While there is no quick fix to the current economy, there has been an improvement in unemployment statistics and opportunities in employment since 2008. Said Williams, “There’s no one single job that will save the economy. Everyone wants a simple solution, but it’s always more complex than that.”

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