This article has been updated.
As hundreds of thousands of Texans continue to file for unemployment related to the coronavirus pandemic, San Antonio workforce development organizations are stepping up efforts to help idled workers in hard-hit industries learn new skills that might provide employment in the both the short and long term.
Workers in retail, hospitality, tourism, and food service sectors have absorbed heavy job losses, said Sean Attwood, vice president of tech development for the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF). Meanwhile, industries such as cybersecurity, IT, bioscience, and health care continue to grow and need workers, he said.
“Most people have not lived through something like this,” Attwood said. “It’s a huge economic impact. The full impact of this crisis won’t be known for a while, so even before the [closing of businesses] we started working together as a team to help those who have been displaced.”
SA Works, a local workforce development organization created by the economic development foundation to better align San Antonians’ skills with the city’s workforce needs, teamed up with similar organizations such as Tech Bloc and Geekdom to put together a list of resources for job seekers and small business owners.
SA Works decided to focus efforts on helping identify and connect impacted people with resources to get hired in health care and tech-related fields, Attwood said. The SAEDF participated by launching a new landing page, SA Real and Ready, which provides job seekers with local resources, he said. Through the site, the SAEDF is conducting a survey to gauge the local impact of coronavirus on the business community.
Dax Moreno, chief talent officer of Tech Bloc and head of the Tech Talent Central program, spearheaded an effort to distribute any free job training and career resources online a couple of weeks before before the stay-home order on March 24 that closed most businesses.
“I said, ‘If we can get a way for everyone to be notified about training opportunities, and explain resources that would be useful, that would be helpful,’” Moreno said.
Supported by SA Works, the SAEDF, and other local job resource centers, Moreno held a Facebook Live seminar explaining more than a dozen free online resources such as BiblioTech, Project Quest, and other avenues for learning new job skills.
“This could be a chance to help level up the community,” he said.
A restaurant general manager and sommelier for the past 20 years, San Antonio resident Steven Todd said he was laid off in mid-March. He’s unsure about his next move, and nearing age 50, the idea of going back to college to learn new skills is intimidating.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head [around] this situation,” he said. “Everything I could see myself doing will mean a return to school.”
One program on Moreno’s list, Launch SA, caught Todd’s eye. Todd said the business and mentorship services offered by the entrepreneurship and small business center sounded like a great fit for him.
“I’d get to build relationships with locals while learning entrepreneurial skills,” Todd said. “I like that it’s local and is community based.”
Here is a list of resources for laid-off employees seeking a new job – or for furloughed workers who are waiting for their job to resume – who want to learn skills to qualify themselves for jobs in other fields:
- BiblioTech, Bexar County’s all-digital public library, can be used to get digital access to thousands of books and to courses on Lynda.com, which offers training in software, technology, creative skills, and more. Any Bexar County resident can use BiblioTech, but users need to set up an account.
- Project Quest works to help people in San Antonio who are underemployed learn new skills so they can land high-demand local jobs. It also offers services such as childcare, financial assistance, and more. Interested applicants can apply by clicking here. Applicants must be 18 or older, have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent certification, be a legal U.S. citizen and be able to commit to working full time for 18 months upon completion of the program.
- Goodwill Career & Technical Academy provides training for professional career certifications for a variety of industries at little to no cost to the trainee. Certifications include: nursing assistant, phlebotomist, basic commercial construction, commercial drivers license, electrical helper, building maintenance technician, administrative assistant, certified associate project manager, project management professional certification, and computer technician.
- Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA) is a regional source currently working with local job seekers over the phone or through connecting online. WSA offers services such as childcare, advice for small businesses, job seeker and career advice, services for transitioning veterans and service members, youth services, and disability services. WSA case managers throughout the 13-county region are answering a higher-than-normal volume of phone calls, CEO of WSA Adrian Lopez told the Rivard Report in March.
- Work in Texas helps connect Texas job seekers and employers. The site offers a job search for individuals looking for local work, and provides employers recruiting assistance.
- The San Antonio Public Library has resources available on its website. Library staff is available from Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 210-207-2500 to help with community information, including job search assistance. Digital library resources are available around the clock, which includes access to career and job related eBooks, Universal Class and other online learning platforms here. San Antonians who do not have a library card can sign up for one online.