Local News

Jul 19, 2010 10:22 PM by Ariel Wesler

Training programs boost confidence for the unemployed

Despite drops in the unemployment rate at the state and national level, local cities are still seeing increases.

San Luis Obispo County jumped from just above 9.5 percent in May to 10 percent last month. Within the county, Paso Robles rose from around 11 percent to nearly 12 percent. San Luis Obispo went up from 10.5 percent to just under 11. Meanwhile, there are big differences in county and city unemployment numbers for Santa Barbara County.

These students are learning about weatherization. It's one of three free training programs at Allan Hancock college partnering with the Workforce Resource Board.

"There are actually some builders in the class, some licensed contractors. I've got one guy that's essentially a rocket scientist from Vandenberg," said Instructor Brian Larkowski.

"I find a lot of work, but it's not what I call consistent," said David Salomon, a student enrolled in the class.

At 8.8 percent, Santa Barbara County has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state, but the differnce between north and south county is staggering. While Lompoc is around 15 percent and Santa Maria is about 13.5 percent. Santa Barbara sits at about six percent.

"People that are employed in Santa Barbara are people that are highly educated in highly educated jobs," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joni Gray.

She says north county is a more rural region with more blue collar jobs that generally require less education. In fact, the county's largest jump in unemployment last month came from the feds.

"We would attribute most of that to the census workers terminating their jobs, said Mona Baker," the Workforce Resource Center Manager in Santa Maria.

Now, some are using their unemployment to sharpen their skills and learn new ones.

These training programs are designed to help students become more competitive, so when the economy bounces back, they'll be ready.

"I think it gives people the confidence to be able to say, oh, there are other things new opening up that you would never have heard of before," Salomon said.

A class where knowing how to make a home greener could eventually earn you a little green yourself.

"There's something for everyone to do whether you just want to do the paperwork aspect or you literally want to get up inside an attic and crawl around," Larkowski said.

Classes are held monday through thursday at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria and Lompoc.

The Workforce Resource Centers in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara usually average around 60,000 visits per year. This year alone, they averaged around 92,000 visits.

For more information on signing up for a training program or to see if you qualify, click here.

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