Wednesday, May 25 , 2016, 9:37 am | Partly Cloudy 62º

Santa Barbara County’s Changing Labor Market Fuels Business Discussion

Panelists at Workforce Investment Board forum discuss growing and diminishing industries, as well as employee skill sets found lacking

By Alex Kacik, Noozhawk Business Writer | @NoozhawkBiz |

Santa Barbara County’s economy is not in a jobless recovery, according to Josh Williams, president of BW Research Partnership Inc.

“It’s a changing recovery, meaning some industries are going up and some are going down,” Williams said. “Understand that industry clusters represent a better way of segmenting and understanding the economy rather than just trying to look at it from a general perspective.”

While Santa Barbara County remained at an unadjusted 8.9 percent unemployment rate from February to March, there are job openings in certain industries, Williams noted Friday morning at the Workforce Investment Board’s Santa Barbara County Employment Forecast at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.

He defined six industry clusters, or geographic concentrations of interconnected companies — energy and environment, health care, agriculture, tourism and wineries, technology and innovation, business support services, and building and design.

Williams said he expects the technology, energy and building industries to grow the most in the next three years.

On the other hand, he added, the public sector is downsizing, retail is sputtering, transportation jobs are decreasing and the construction industry is rebounding very slowly.

“A good barometer of the local economy’s health is the business support services, which are growing and seeing a lot of change,” Williams said. “As they go, the general macro-economy in Santa Barbara County will go.”

A panel of business leaders followed Williams’ presentation, including SBCC acting President Jack Friedlander, Riverbench Vineyard general manager Laura Mohseni, emPowerSBC manager Angela Hacker, Lesa Caputo of Beneflex Insurance Services, JM Holliday & Associates project manager Michelle Swanitz and Impulse Advanced Communications president Dave Clark.

Pacific Coast Business Times senior editor Stephen Nellis moderated the panel, who discussed what types of skills they are looking for and characteristics lacking in some of their recent hires. They found that some of their workers don’t handle problem-solving well, lack creativity, don’t communicate effectively and aren’t self-motivated.

“SBCC offers specific training for existing employees; the Professional Development Center is specifically designed for people in the workforce,” Friedlander said. “Employers want more interdisciplinary skills and not so specialized skills, because it’s important to draw upon knowledge from multiple areas because things have to be done more efficiently.”

Williams said three out of five Santa Barbara employers are having some difficulty finding qualified applicants with adequate industry experience. Most recent hires lack technical skills specific to the position and communication skills, according to local employers.

Williams broke down the county labor market into three tiers: Tier 1 occupations are typically the high-skilled and highest-paying jobs, Tier 2 occupations include middle-wage positions and Tier 3 occupations usually represent the lower-skilled service jobs that require little training and education.

Santa Barbara County’s Tier 1 workers make up 27 percent of the overall workforce compared with California’s 22 percent, Tier 2 employees are 44 percent of the total workforce compared with the state’s 59 percent and Tier 3 workers make up 29 percent of the overall workforce compared with the state’s 19 percent.

Williams said too many job seekers don’t have the education or training to qualify for Tier 2 positions.

“Something interesting that Josh spoke to was that it’s not so much about occupations anymore, it’s about the skill set you have,” WIB executive director Raymond McDonald said. “If you have those skill sets, you can move into the better-paying jobs.”

For the labor market to improve, Williams said, employees need to utilize resources such as SBCC to learn specific skills for growing industries and Santa Barbara needs to be smart about its growth.

“Santa Barbara is sometimes perceived in some ways as anti-growth,” he said. “I think we need to say growth is OK, but we need make it smart and manage it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.