The Workforce Investment Board of Santa Barbara County in partnership with BW Research, the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region and the Goleta Chamber of Commerce hosted on Friday morning the “Santa Barbara Banking Industry Study: Identifying New Opportunities for the Banking Industry Workforce” event.

The study was completed by BW Research in an effort to analyze employment in the region’s banking industry. The research is a component of the special project to assist the laid off workers of the 2012 merger between Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and Union Bank.

Among the attendees were several of the laid-off workers from the banking industry, chamber members and representatives from various local government agencies and private organizations.

As many of the attendees expected, the results of the study showed that during the last six years, the banking industry in Santa Barbara County contracted by over 40 percent; which (according to the study results) is more than double the decrease experienced by California, as a whole. And while the state has begun recouping jobs, Santa Barbara County continues a steady decline in banking employment levels.

“Even though we continue to see a decrease in employment opportunities in the region’s banking industry, there is hope for the transitioning workforce,” said Josh Williams, president of BW Research. “The study showed that three of the five WIB-designated industry sectors (Business Support Services, Technology and Innovation, Building and Design) for Santa Barbara County have seen growth in occupational categories relevant to those workers laid off from the banking industry — offering hope of a new career pathway for these transitioning workers.”

The study also revealed that nearly half of all laid-off workers had worked for ten years or more with their former employer. Over 40 percent of the surveyed laid-off workers responded they would like to find employment in their current occupation, but in a new industry.

Bernard “Bernie” Smith, one of the laid-off workers, said, “It is encouraging to see how the Workforce Investment Board, the Santa Barbara and Goleta Chamber of Commerce continue to support SBB&T former employees, but it is discouraging, however not surprisingly, to see the decrease in employment opportunities in the banking industry.”

Smith has over 13 years of experience as a consumer lending professional. 

The event included a panel discussion moderated by Kristen Miller, president of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce. Panelists included Melissa Moreno, J.D., director of the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation; Stephen Nellis, senior editor at the Pacific Business Times; and Williams, president at BW Research. Members of the panel had the opportunity to share ideas with the audience and specifically with the transitioning workforce group about entrepreneurship opportunities and the type of local employers that might be a good fit as they (the laid-off workers) look into aligning themselves with a growth industry sectors.