Thursday, August 16, 2012
As two major Salinas employers prepare to slash staff, bare-bones county employment services are hoping a $1 million grant can help almost 950 workers get back on their feet.
The last 13 of 75 Fresh Express employees received notice last week, as the produce company prepares to relocate its headquarters to North Carolina. And the first waves of layoff notices are expected to hit Capital One this fall, which will cut 869 jobs by the time it closes in mid-2013.
Capital One’s announcement in May came as a major blow to the city. About 500 workers will receive relocation offers in Chicago, Las Vegas, Richmond and elsewhere.
Without a local financial sector footprint, Joyce Aldrich, the county interim assistant director of Employment and Economic Development, predicts more workers may move to San Francisco or Silicon Valley.
Aldrich hopes to help transition many workers into other fields, most likely agribusiness. “We’re still working on finding out from individuals where their skill sets are and where they’re lacking,” she says.
Aldrich applied for the grant, which the California Economic Development Department awarded June 30.
Aldrich expects the County Board of Supervisors to approve grant contracts on Aug. 28; that will divvy up the $1 million between program expenses like on-the-job training, and the county Office of Employment Training, Workforce Investment Board and Shoreline Workforce Development Services, a division of Goodwill Industries that provides vocational training.
Capital One also hired a full-time, six-person staff to set up shop in its offices, where employees receive four hours a week (on company time) of personalized resume and interviewing advice.
“We’re trying to help people figure out what they want to do,” says Estelle Cimino, a consultant with Lee Hecht Harrison and manager of Capital One’s career center in Salinas. “It’s not necessarily about laying off people, it’s about helping them develop their careers.”
Capital One’s also pledged $1.6 million in direct financial assistance to the city of Salinas, “for the development and implementation of a plan to advance the city’s economic development,” according to spokeswoman Julie Rakes. (Rakes would not disclose Capital One’s budget for the on-site career center.)
City officials did not return numerous calls for comment on the status of developing such a plan by the Weekly’s deadline.
The city’s not a participant in the county’s rapid response team, a coalition of job placement groups.
No city representative attended an Aug. 10 meeting in a Capital One conference room, where Rod Powell, program manager for the county OET, presented to about 50 employees on county job-training services. It was the first boots-on-the-ground outreach, which will be supported by the state grant.
But Powell says it’s unclear exactly who’s leading the charge: “The One Stop Career Centers did it all in the past. Now, there’s a new department and push to reevaluate.” In addition, Powell says Hecht officials won’t let the county discuss unemployment services with workers until they’re actually unemployed.
Since forming in 2011, the county Economic Development Department has gone through bureaucratic contortions with the demise of redevelopment agencies and shuffling around of existing departments. OET shrank from 46 to 34 positions this fiscal year.
It’s also been without consistent leadership; former director Jim Cook retired in July, and Linda Guilles steps in Aug. 20 as interim director.