SAN ANTONIO — It’s been 10 months since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the U.S. (and the world).
Since then, we have seen the economic impact that the virus has caused.
Unemployment claims hit a historically high level as high-touch industries were forced to let many of their workers go.
This past Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department said that jobless claims remained around 900,000 while 5.1 million Americans continued to receive state jobless benefits.
And yet, 2021 has brought along with it some light.
As the country moves forward in its fight against a virus that has taken 400,000 plus American lives with mass vaccination plans, and industries develop new business plans that are in line with COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions, many employers are looking to hire.
With that being said, getting a job in 2021 might be a little more difficult than it was pre-pandemic.
That's why for this week’s IN THE LOOP, we sat down (virtually!) with Adrian Lopez, the CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo the lead workforce agency for the Alamo region to find out more about the services offered to the local community and how to stand out in a sea of applicants.
What is Workforce Solutions Alamo?
To start, Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA) serves 13 counties, which includes Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Frio, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, McMullen, Medina, and Wilson counties. The agency is one of 28 workforce boards that are designated by Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature to provide workforce services.
According to Lopez, WSA’s annual budget is around $100 million, most of which goes to child care. “We [use part of our budget] to remove the barrier of child care, so that people can get back to school. They can get educated, trained, and then, of course, back into the workforce and get employed.”
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lopez said that the WSA’s work has been especially important as the Alamo region attempts to respond to the pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis brought on by it.
While WSA does have 16 centers open, largely for people who do not have access to computers or Internet/WiFi, WSA has ramped up its virtual presence.
“We do ask clients to actually take advantage of our virtual job fairs and our virtual services [in addition to] our training providers. We have added another 200 plus classes and courses so that people can get the right type of skills to get them into occupations that pay a good wage.”
WSA has also been able to secure additional funds from the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, and other sources in order to serve the people who were furloughed or laid off as a result of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, that number is pretty high. Lopez said that there have been about 300,000 unemployment claims in WSA’s 13-county region alone.
And while employers are looking to hire new employees, the pool of applicants remains large.
VIDEO: HOW TO STAND OUT
Standing out in a sea of applicants
So how can you stand out in a sea of applicants? Lopez said it comes down to two things--- technical skills and soft skills.
1. Technical Skills
“Employers will hire based on technical skills. So people having maybe a history or credentials that determine that they actually have the skill set to be able to do the job that they’re applying for. That, of course, is the first thing.”
If you don’t have the necessary technical skills, however, Lopez said that WSA can help you get the skills you need with both short-term and long-term training programs.
2. Soft Skills
The second most important thing is a potential employee’s soft skills or social skills.
“Employers will tell you they’ll hire on technical skills and they will usually fire on social things. So things like, conflict management and being able to resolve issues that inevitably come up in situations when you’re in the workplace. Those things are key.”
Lopez also pointed out that WSA can help people with their soft skills as well.
“We do have trainings for those types of things to be able to provide people that type of skill set in order for people to be successful not only in a particular market but for the long-term.”
Pivot, Pivot Pivot
And while WSA can offer services to help people find a job in an industry that they have experience in, Lopez said that WSA can also help people who are using this time to reevaluate their goals and possibly even take on an entirely different career.
As a result of the pandemic, “some [industries] are probably not going to come back. So now’s a good time to think about where you can pivot. And the good thing is that we have the resources and we have the programs in place and we have really good staff and career counselors that can help people start to figure out where is their skill set, where is their interest, and how do we get them into a targeted occupation or a target industry that’s going to pay a good wage in a short amount of time.”
Finding the best fit
At the end of the day, Lopez just wants the community to know about the free services and resources that are available to them.
And whether it’s a temporary job or the start of a new career, WSA is there to help people get back on their feet during a difficult and tumultuous time.
“From our end it’s really about sort of looking at working closely with our clients and seeing for those who have lost jobs, giving them the ability to come to us, to talk to our counselors and get evaluated and assessed… and seeing if we can sort of match that with training opportunities that are going to get them into situations where there actually are job and where there are industries that are actually hiring.”
On Wednesday, January 27, WSA will hold a virtual job fair that specifically focuses on the healthcare industry, but Lopez said that doesn’t mean the fair is targeting solely medical professionals, “it’s the whole slew of jobs!” Child care slots are available to those in need.
Anyone interested in Workforce Solutions Alamo and its services, trainings, career fairs, etc, can call (210)-224-4357 or visit www.workforcesolutionsalamo.org.