For job seekers, the One-Stop Career Center in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara might hold the key to a budding career. Newly assigned to KRA Corporation on a two-and-a-half year, $2.8 million contract that begins January 2017, the two employment centers, currently run by Santa Barbara County, offer not only computer use and job information but also can tell job seekers which currently available jobs require what skills and how to make the connections needed to get employed.
The new competitive requirement for the publicly funded workforce system also has the county’s Workforce Development Board, which administers the Career Centers, contracting with PathPoint for services prepping and training youth to “become better people” through learning on the job, said Raymond McDonald, executive director with Workforce Development Board. He explained that youth training helps establish a pattern of working and includes instruction on such practical matters as being on time, dressing appropriately, no texting on the cell phone: “That sort of thing,” he said, laughing, “and classes to develop their leadership skills,” he added. KRA and PathPoint were chosen by an independent evaluation team, McDonald said.
One of his tasks is to work with chambers of commerce and individual businesses to open doors for job seekers by finding out what the business community needs and also to communicate the skills of workers looking for jobs. Workforce Development also deploys its staff when companies have widescale layoffs, he explained, as during the Haggen grocery store bankruptcy and when groundskeepers at a polo grounds were let go.
The Workforce Development programs seek to place or train workers toward mid-level jobs, which are in the $44,000/year range in Santa Barbara County, McDonald said, and require some education and training. The average wage across low, middle, and high level jobs the Workforce Development Board had sought was $11,650 annually in 2014, the last year for which McDonald had such statistics.
According to a Living Wage Calculator developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Santa Barbara County’s was $13.52 per hour for a single adult in 2015, when the minimum wage was $9/hour and poverty wage was $5/hour. The calculator, developed by Open Data Nation for MIT Professor Amy Glasmeier, looked at expenses like housing, food, and transportation to determine the estimate. The living wage annually for that adult was $28,120 before taxes, and for a family of two working adults and one child, the annual living wage came to $53,477.
About 70 percent of the people who enrolled in the Workforce Development Board’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act program — roughly 50,000 people pass through its doors annually — were placed and kept their jobs for more than six months, McDonald said. A new program being launched in August helps transition probationers back into work and the community. A partnership with Community Solutions and the county’s Probation Department garnered a $340,000 grant for a demonstration program, McDonald said, which adds an employment dimension to current probation services. Program applicants are referred by their probation officers, said McDonald.
PathPoint has offices in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Ventura, and received a 33-month contract of about $2 million to help young people ages 14-24 obtain work experience. KRA Corporation maintains about 200 similar contracts and is nationally recognized. It will operate out of the current One-Stop Career Center locations, in conjunction with the state’s employment division, at 130 East Ortega Street in Santa Barbara and 1410 South Broadway in Santa Maria.