Santa Barbara County’s job base is growing, but its job quality is deteriorating. Most of the growth among our largest employers- the tourism, agriculture, and hospitality industries – is in lower wage service jobs rather than professional positions that offer higher wages and greater stability. The challenge for workers is how to support a family on low-to-moderate wage jobs that fluctuate seasonally and often have no health care or job security. Even with steady employment, many struggle to meet the basic needs of their families, given the high costs of housing and child care. Additional workforce training is needed to close the skills gap and open the door to greater opportunity.
While Santa Barbara County is importing positions in service, sales and transportation, we are exporting talent in high-skilled, high-paying occupations in management, business, science and the arts. In a competitive market, skilled workers leave for locations offering better wages and a lower cost of living, so local employers have difficulty filling positions. Meanwhile our region struggles to attract new employers because of the challenge of recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce.
In order to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and the future of employment, SBF contributed nearly $27,000 toward a countywide COVID-19 Workforce Impact Report that was conducted in collaboration with the Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board. The results of this study have been recently published, and will be used to inform county partners in workforce development. This timely and important study was made possible by funding and support from Highland Santa Barbara Foundation, Inc.
Although COVID-19 has created many challenges for working families, local nonprofits and educational institutions have come together to develop collaborative solutions to these issues facing our workforce. For example, SBF partnered with Allan Hancock College (AHC) to support Community Education during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping AHC connect to students, families, and our Spanish speaking community in a safe and responsible manner during the height of an unprecedented public health crisis. Learn more.
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The Santa Barbara Foundation will continue to collaborate with workforce development agencies in the public and private sector to devise innovative strategies to close the disconnect between the availability of higher skilled jobs and a trained supply of workers to fill them. We will support an infrastructure for job growth in the region and are working with educators and industry to build job skills. A key element of this effort is supporting programs that get students ready for college and careers that offer promising, productive futures.
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