It has become known as the “Great Resignation,” referring to the number of people who quit their jobs during the pandemic. According to Wallet Hub, California faired better than some states in retaining workers. Still, there are many jobs to fill and seemingly not enough people to fill them. With unemployment in the Inland Empire at about 3.9 percent, employers large and small are eager to find the best candidates possible. “Hiring is challenging,” says Diane Rundles, human resources director for San Bernardino County. “It requires new and innovative ways to get the right candidates. We have to be aggressive in our recruiting,” noting that the county has more than 40 departments. “Jobs range from accounting and administrative positions to building maintenance and animal control to folks that work at the airport to education, counseling, executive management, fire, deputies.

The list goes on. Just about any industry you can think of, we’re hiring for,” she adds. “We feel like we have a corner market in some regards because people want to be employed in a place where they can be part of a larger purpose and fulfill a mission. It’s much more rewarding as a career,” she says. “Our goal is to target that and focus on that our county branding is that opportunity works here,” she says. What jobs are most in demand in San Bernardino County? According to Rundles, health care and nursing are at the top. “We’re spending a lot of time and energy in trying to attract and retain people in those fields. I think that has something to do with the pandemic.

“We have to be aggressive in our recruiting. Just about any industry you can think of, we’re hiring for.”

Diane Rundles, Human Resources Director for San Bernardino County

People in that industry are burned out. There isn’t a huge pool, and that market has changed where a lot of nurses are traveling instead of committing to an organization. They want to do things on their terms,” she says. In addition, social services is another area where a region that’s growing as dramatically as the Inland Empire needs more social workers. Information technology (IT) is another high need area, as is land use and construction. Administration, accounting, finance and human resources also have openings. “Even secretaries. It’s hard to find good talent in secretarial support,” she says. To help attract talent, Rundles says the county offers salaries that are competitive with surrounding counties, “but there are also other benefits to consider. We have great medical, retiring medical trusts, a great retirement plan called a defined benefit plan in which you have a set benefit based on how many years of service you have that you will have for life,” she says. “The county also offers educational assistance, tuition reimbursement for some positions, different programs to support people onsite, a wellness program with incentives, so we really try to make it an environment where employees feel like there is a good reciprocal relationship.

You work hard for us and we invest in you,” she says. San Bernardino County also has a training and development department and about 150 entry level and training positions. “In the next few years, we plan to do more to invest in our employees, like bringing on onsite cohort degree programs, and other programs with our training partners to help people enhance their skills and continue to develop and grow in their careers. Our goal is to cultivate talent and have them commit to this organization and be here for their careers. We know that’s not typical, but if you understand what our mission is and how dedicated we are in terms of leadership, in serving the public, you’ll be just as excited and engaged as we are,” says Rundles, who has been with the county about four years.

In addition, the county is working with area colleges and universities to help prepare students for careers with the county. “We want to tap into people who are developing specific skills, like IT. If we can partner with our universities and develop people with some IT skills, it gets them ready for that next step,” she says. In hiring people, Rundles says the county looks for not only people with specific skills, but also those with “soft skills.” For example, people who have an understanding of customer service, professionalism, communication skills, reliability, teamwork, resilience, honesty, and problem-solving skills. “Those are all important to us. We look for people with a level of dedication, ambition, and humility, which we see as a key ingredient to someone being successful and able to learn and self- evaluate,” she says. The county does offer some hybrid schedules and some telecommuting, but mostly, she says they want to “grow people into leadership positions.

We want them to move up. We need them to develop expertise so they can help us do more and add value to the organization. We want to elevate people to a level where they’re thinking about, ‘How can I serve?’ It doesn’t matter if I’m a custodian or an HR employee, we each need to go the extra mile,” she says. To prepare for a job interview, Rundles says candidates should research the job bulletins and job descriptions. Understand the position fully. Do some homework on the county. “It’s impressive when candidates can talk about something they’ve read about the county,” she says. Also job seekers should know the job description and think ahead of time how their skills could fit, even if they aren’t a perfect fit. Do they have skills that can translate to something similar? “Think about what you have to offer,” she says. Also, research the qualifications. Con- template what you’d need to be successful in the role.

“There really are numerous opportunities in the region. One more I would like to highlight is the growing cybersecurity industry.”

Carlos Ayala, Ph.D., president & CEO of Growing Inland Achievement

And dress professionally. “It’s better to be overdressed than under- dressed,” she says. Plus, don’t be late, and if you are, acknowledge it. Bring a copy of your resume and ask if the interviewer minds if you take notes. Make eye contact. And even if the interview seems casual, retain a level of professionalism. But mostly, Rundles says the county is looking for people with a commitment to customer service. “We won’t compromise on what we need to do for our taxpayers,” she says. See www.sbcounty.gov for current job openings. In the meantime, Carlos Ayala, Ph.D., president & CEO for Growing Inland Achievement (GIA), isn’t surprised that employers have trouble hiring.

Ayala says GIA focuses on education “as a critical lever to move individuals out of this poverty and ultimately improve the region’s overall economy,” he says. “While the region has experienced notable economic growth in recent years, this has unfortunately not resulted in better economic conditions overall due in part to a disconnect between education and the needs of the emerging workforce. A Brookings Institute report published in February 2019 states that to advance opportunity in the Inland Empire, we must increase the competitiveness and diversity of sectors in the economy that concentrate good jobs. This entails advancing the industries that are already strong drivers of the economy, diversifying the economy by investing in ‘opportunity industries’ that lead to stable middle-class jobs, and better connecting people, particularly women and people of color, to opportunity industries through innovative education and training initiatives,” he says. “We know this will require concerted, coordinated efforts with multiple stakeholders to build pathways to good jobs, including K-12, postsecondary, and workforce partners.

By building pathways across the spectrum of education and into the workforce, students will have early exposure and experiences with the careers available to them, and employers will become engaged in the training and education of the future workforce. As we do this work, it is especially critical that we attend to the inequities faced by our Black, Latinx, and Indigenous student populations, students from lower-income families, and other disenfranchised populations,” Ayala adds. Working with regional partners over the past six years, Ayala says it has become clear that many promising practices are happening throughout the region where students and employers connect through internships, apprenticeships, and school engagement. “However, we must build on these pathways and ensure they are integrated, inclusive, stable, and equitable and feed into quality jobs in existing and emerging industries in the Inland Empire,” he says.

Ayala says GIA and its partners recently spent five months crafting plans for career pathways in four key industry sectors: healthcare, education, business, and engineering/computing. “Industry projections from the Department of Labor and our local industry partners tell us that the region has multiple opportunities for careers with living wages and growth opportunities; for example, the education system is facing a shortage of credentialed teachers. GIA is helping with this by partnering with Cal State San Bernardino, both county offices of education, several school districts, and the Blu Education Foundation to support the recruitment, training, and placement of more minority male teachers. This initiative is addressing both the teacher shortage and the need for more teachers of color in the region. “Another area where career opportunities are growing is in the allied health field. Throughout the region, commu- nity colleges and four-year colleges of- fer multiple education opportunities in healthcare ranging from short-term credentials to four-year degrees.

GIA is helping colleges and the healthcare industry make connections to strengthen these programs,” he says. Ayala says another significant growth opportunity in the region is sustainable logistics. “As a major logistics and transportation corridor, the Inland Empire has the potential to be a leader in transforming the transportation and logistics industry toward electric power and ameliorating the pollution associated with transportation and warehousing. In these industries, although the jobs are not there yet, investment in developing those path- ways and jobs is critical to prepare the region for the future,” he says. “There really are numerous opportunities in the region. One more I would like to highlight is the growing cyber- security industry. Many people are un- aware that the Inland Empire has a local cybersecurity business presence, including a National Center for Cybersecurity housed at Cal State San Bernardino,” he says. Ayala, who joined GIA in 2019, comes from a family of educators and began his career teaching in Calexico. He later earned a Ph.D. in Education from Stanford University and was a Dean at Sonoma State University. “There I learned the valuable lesson that relationships and trust between postsecondary institutions, K-12 districts, and community partners could improve educational outcomes,” he says. For more information about GIA, see inlandempiregia.org or tune into Education Insight, an award-winning monthly radio show and podcast, which can be heard on 91.9 KVCR FM and numerous podcast outlets.

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