County renews 'Life after Layoff' job program

San Mateo County’s high employment rate has done little to stop layoffs in the professional, scientific and technical services in recent months, leading officials to relaunch a campaign to connect jobless workers with employers.

So far, the county has seen more than 2,200 workers laid off from July 2006 to the present at major companies such as United Airlines, Sun Microsystems and Monster Cable, according to county Workforce Development Manager Fred Slone.

With a little more than a month until the end of the fiscal year on June30, the number of layoffs in the professional, scientific and technical services — to some extent the county’s bread and butter industries — appears to be tracking close to last year’s pace of 3,345, Slone said.

The county’s April unemployment rates, the most current available, stands at 3.6 percent, the same as a year prior, said Ruth Kavanagh, labor market consultant for the state Employment Development Department.

The county program, called the Life After the Layoff Campaign, puts laid off workers in touch with resources ranging from interview counseling to retraining courses and employers themselves, Slone said.

“Our career center team, the Job Squad, provides very fast-tracked orientations and consultation to over 200 participants that attended our 2006 community event,” Slone said.

San Mateo resident Becky Scancarello said her training on computer programs, including spreadsheets and word processing, at the Workforce Development Center helped her land a new job within two months of being laid off by United Airlines in June 2006.

Since retraining as an executive assistant, she has worked for Stanford, a real estate company and a law firm, Scancarello said.

“It took about two months to land my first job,” said Scancarello, who left United after more than 10 years when the duties of analyzing debris impacts was moved to Chicago.

To a large extent, Slone blames the highly competitive nature of Peninsula industries, including a large number of startups, for the high number of layoffs. “Some of this is a result of our innovative nature of creation and destruction,” Slone said, indicating it may not be a problem that can easily be eliminated.

Workforce Development works with area community colleges and the county Office of Education to retrain workers in growth fields such as nursing and dental assistant, biotech and judicial studies, Slone said.

“If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” Scancarello said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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