San Diego Union Tribune

Overcoming Barriers to Hiring, Even in a Strong Job Market

We’re fortunate to be living and working in this remarkably strong economy, a time when jobs are plentiful and employment has reached new highs.

It’s easy to forget that as recently as seven years ago, still gripped by the Great Recession, San Diego County’s unemployment rate was nearly 11 percent. Now the rate merrily dances around 3 percent, give or take a tick or two.

But remember the current 3.3 percent is an average. With engineering and IT being at 1 percent or lower, that means youth, minorities and older workers have a much higher rate of unemployment.

What about the folks who, despite our thriving economy, want to work but remain desperately unemployed?

Fact is, tens of thousands of lower-income San Diegans still have difficulty getting and keeping a job that pays a wage that with one or even two income families is enough to support themselves and their children.

At a recent economic summit, Ray Major, chief economist with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), pointed out that among the top 20 jobs showing the most anticipated growth now through 2024, only three — general managers, registered nurses, and accountants/auditors — are mid-range in salary, say $40,000 to $80,000 a year and up.

The rest of the categories range from only $20,000 to $30,000 a year, mostly entry-level positions in the tourism and hospitality sectors and light manufacturing. And these are the jobs that will be outsourced or automated as fast as technology will allow.

What to do?

Substantial barriers to finding a job do exist

Let’s begin with the compassionate assumption that everyone who wants to work should be able to find a job and earn a paycheck.

Yet, despite our best efforts as a caring culture, substantial barriers to finding a job do exist, most often led by transportation issues – lack of a car and limited public transportation and child care costs.

Other job barriers include age, disabilities, drug and/or alcohol abuse, education, employer biases, divorce, a child with special needs, aging parents, housing issues or homelessness, English proficiency, employment history gaps, physical or mental illness, and … well, so many more.

Take transportation.

If you don’t have a car, you’re stuck.

Yes, we have an extensive bus and trolley system — if your home and job happen to be conveniently near a bus route or trolley line. And there are noble causes such as ride-sharing, walking, and biking to work, but they hardly rate as big-picture options.

The simple truth remains: In San Diego, if you don’t have a car, you’re mostly stuck.

Another big barrier: child care and elder care.

Fast-mounting costs of child care, as much as $250 a week and $12,000 a year, quickly negate whatever net income earned from a lower-paying job. Same with elder care, which often requires that those in the so-called “sandwich generation” – caring for aging parents while supporting young children – must stay at home.

These familial commitments not only potentially pose a barrier to getting a job, they also can trigger loss of a job when sudden family needs cause employees to undependable at their workplace.

More men are now faced with age-old dilemma

Not so long ago, it was largely females who weren’t able to maintain a job because of child-care responsibilities. With shifting cultural changes, lately more men, especially those in their 40s and 50s, are being faced with the same age-old dilemma.

I wish I had the magic elixir.

But for starters, here’s some advice: Don’t be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to seek or ask for help. There is hope and opportunity out there, especially if you chose to pursue the right job for the right reasons, such as:

· Try to maintain a positive attitude about getting a job, no matter what

· If you need job training and placement counseling, seek it out by whatever means

· If you need the services take part in free drug, alcohol and mental health services

· If you need financial assistance, seek out government programs that are provided for your benefit, especially child care

On a personal note, as Board Chair, I’m a big believer in the San Diego Workforce Partnership. That’s the state- and federal-funded agency that puts San Diegans to work through education programs, job training and placement services – regardless of income or background.

If you or someone you know needs these valuable services, reach out for assistance and

They’re offered free of charge and without barriers.