Sep 01 2021

Dunn and Done: Employers: Hire Local Workers for an OC That Rises Together

There’s a workforce shortage in Orange County. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 110,000 less residents have jobs than pre-pandemic, 55,000 more are unemployed, 52,000 dropped out of the labor force altogether and the unemployment rate is now more than double.

How can we overcome this? As the economy makes strides toward reopening, help wanted signs continue to pop up on storefronts. This recovery relies on a skilled workforce willing and able to get back to work. Without which, businesses can’t thrive, resulting in closure and ultimately more jobs lost, a vicious cycle. The lessons of the pandemic are that different pipelines and innovative solutions are needed to keep OC’s workforce growing, especially among entry-level and service positions. Innovative employment social enterprises may fill this void.

What exactly is an “employment social enterprise?”

The non-profit, Chrysalis, is a good model. Chrysalis—changing lives through jobs—has served Los Angeles County for over 30 years expanding into Orange County in 2018 to help people experiencing barriers such as homelessness, poverty, and those with court records get back into the workforce. By partnering with local businesses to fill open entry-level positions, Chrysalis provides access for vulnerable individuals to employment opportunities and supports employers with workforce pipeline needs. And performance metrics are strong: in three years, Chrysalis placed over 600 Orange County residents in jobs.

For example, Chrysalis partnered with Caltrans to employ transitional workers while they seek permanent employment. As a result, Caltrans employed crews tasked with keeping California highways and roads clear and clean, important for public safety. In fact, Caltrans and Chrysalis recently doubled down on this partnership to support the Newsom administration’s “Clean California Initiative.”

The importance of a job to an individual cannot be overstated. One Chrysalis client shared that his life changed dramatically after hitting rock bottom from homelessness and substance abuse. He saw the Chrysalis van pass by the bench he was sleeping on each day which inspired him to walk into their Anaheim center. He was greeted with dignity and respect and introduced to their employment services. As a way to boost his resume, he began working a transitional job with Caltrans through Chrysalis’ Employment Social Enterprise Program. He is now permanently employed and worked into a position as a Caltrans Supervisor. This “second chance” opportunity shifted the trajectory of his life.

Chrysalis creates similar second chance opportunities for others by providing case management, resume consultation, interview preparation, and employment support, along with a full range of job preparation services and connections to Orange County employers. OC private employers such as Disneyland Resort, Thermal-Vac Technology, Honda Center, and UPS have embraced this talent pipeline solution. Chrysalis helps individuals build skills and experience in positions that meet the needs of the local economy, especially during this time of recovery and regrowth.
According to the 2020-21 Orange County Community Indicators, nearly 25 percent of Orange County residents are financially unstable–and these are pre-pandemic figures. We know from California’s Economic Development Department that Orange County, 16 months after the start of the pandemic, still has 55,500 more unemployed residents than pre-pandemic levels, which equates to an unemployment rate of over 6% percent, nearly double the rate pre-pandemic. This means an already vulnerable segment of the population will experience difficulty securing employment since they are now competing with job seekers who don’t have barriers such as prior convictions or lack of housing.

The pandemic has brought the issue of unemployment to the forefront and has allowed us to challenge common misperceptions. And, as to extending public unemployment benefits that may keep some folks from seeking work, Chrysalis surveyed its clients and found that the vast majority would prefer a job over continued public assistance.

It’s time to look to non-traditional methods for filling employment needs, as well as helping the unemployed and most vulnerable in this community. If your business or agency can provide a second chance to a skilled worker, reach out to innovative employment social enterprises like Chrysalis for your hiring needs. They have men and women ready to work and contribute.

When we innovate together, we rise together.

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