|This is an extremely challenging time for our county’s businesses. The Workforce Investment Board continues to work diligently to provide support and training that will preserve jobs and keep the local economy stable. |
In times of economic recession, workforce investment becomes a key component to meeting the needs of struggling communities. During the last two years, the Workforce Investment Board and Workforce Development Department have quickly assigned funds, mobilized resources and expanded programs to keep job seekers and business owners on their feet. Last year, more than 4,100 businesses received assistance, benefitting directly from workforce development programs.
This proactive approach of the board and staff has been recognized nationally, and workforce investment areas around the country are using San Bernardino County as an example of excellence and success.
Today, the Workforce Investment Board is initiating programs that provide the resources and information businesses need to remain stable. The board started the year with the launch of the San Bernardino Business Network, which provides businesses with a countywide human resource hotline and a series of employer workshops free of charge. The hotline and workshops are dedicated to assisting the county’s 60,000 businesses with human resource information and advice to help improve daily functions impacting their time and operating funds. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 800-399-5331.The next employer workshop will be held on April 21 to update business owners on alternatives to layoffs.
A series of resource workshops and seminars are also being organized to help connect business owners with organizations and consulting firms able to assist with marketing, identifying cost reductions, securing loans and alternative financing.
Additional programs available to businesses include, On-The-Job training, the Subsidized Training and Employment Program known as STEP, and Rapid Response services.
The On-The-Job training program helps businesses cover the cost of training incumbent and new workers to meet their workforce needs. The program pays up to half of a new employee’s wages for the first three months on the job while training is in progress to become a fully contributing staff member. The offset of training costs helps increase the chance of permanent employment and promotion for workers in the program. Last year, the board partnered with 83 local businesses to help train 332 employees.
Northwest Pipe Company, a leading manufacturer of welded steel pipe based in Adelanto, is one of many businesses to utilize stimulus funds to provide on the job training in 2009. Earlier in the year, the company was looking to lay off five to 10 people in their maintenance and coding departments, but was in need of welders. The On-The-Job training program allowed the company to keep several employees by training them as welders. These employees are nearing completion of the program, and once finished, they will receive an increase in pay. Northwest Pipe Company pays a minimum wage of $17.21 per hour, resulting in a significant increase for some employees.
The STEP program is very similar to the On-The-Job training program and allows businesses to hire qualified workers currently receiving public assistance. The program provides a reimbursement for eligible new hires of 130 percent of the wages paid over a six-month training period. Since July 1, more than 136 residents have been placed in jobs with county employers.
Royce Pacific, a distributor and service station for woodworking tools in San Bernardino, recruited an office assistant and tool grinder through this program last year. For an extended period, Royce Pacific needed additional staff, but was apprehensive about the possibility of not meeting payroll demands. STEP allowed them to expand their staff and fill needed positions with the right candidates. During the first six months, employee wages for these positions were paid by the program, which alleviated significant costs and helped the company focus on business growth and other operational functions.
Rapid Response is another program making a huge impact on the business community. The program is designed to respond quickly to layoffs and company closings by coordinating services and providing support to businesses and their affected workers. This program provides information and resources to help displaced workers file for unemployment and start their job search. During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, Rapid Response services were provided to 59 businesses and 6,634 laid-off workers countywide. So far this year, 22 businesses and 2,834 laid-off workers have received the same assistance.
Supporting the businesses that employ the local residents is a priority of the county. Throughout the rest of the year, the Workforce Investment Board will continue to implement programs and identify tools to help business remain stable.
The efforts of the Workforce Investment Board have never been as important to our residents and businesses as they are today, and will be in the upcoming years. The support provided by the board will help reduce widespread unemployment and move our local economy in the right direction.
Michael Holtz is a workforce development specialist for the County of San Bernardino Department of Workforce Development. For more information about these programs contact Michael at 760-252-8626, or
You may also view this artice at www.highdesertbusinessjournal.com.