Santa Barbara County’s job base is growing, but its job quality is deteriorating. Most of the growth among our largest employers- the tourism, agriculture, and hospitality industries – is in lower wage service jobs rather than professional positions that offer higher wages and greater stability. The challenge for workers is how to support a family on low-to-moderate wage jobs that fluctuate seasonally and often have no health care or job security. Even with steady employment, many struggle to meet the basic needs of their families, given the high costs of housing and child care. Additional workforce training is needed to close the skills gap and open the door to greater opportunity.
While Santa Barbara County is importing positions in service, sales and transportation, we are exporting talent in high-skilled, high-paying occupations in management, business, science and the arts. In a competitive market, skilled workers leave for locations offering better wages and a lower cost of living, so local employers have difficulty filling positions. Meanwhile our region struggles to attract new employers because of the challenge of recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce.
The Santa Barbara Foundation will continue to collaborate with workforce development agencies in the public and private sector to devise innovative strategies to close the disconnect between the availability of higher skilled jobs and a trained supply of workers to fill them. We will support an infrastructure for job growth in the region and are working with educators and industry to build job skills. A key element of this effort is supporting programs that get students ready for college and careers that offer promising, productive futures.
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Our Strategic Priorities were chosen as a result of our investigation into how the Santa Barbara Foundation could have a meaningful impact on solving today’s most persistent problems. The Strategic Plan was the result of a multi-year process of research, data analysis, interviews, focus groups and board deliberation. Our strategic priorities for 2018-2023 are to work with our partners and donors to maintain a safety net for the vulnerable and to find creative solutions to the problems of working families.