Known for its wine industry, the North Bay region is working to diversify its economy and grow jobs in higher-wage industries. Bruce Wilson, Executive Director of Workforce Alliance of the North Bay (WANB), discussed with us how they’re going about doing this.
WANB leverages regional funding and aligns partners in the North Bay to ensure a skilled workforce today, and in the future. Our network of career centers, employment and training initiatives, and programs result in a regional talent pool that drives economic growth for businesses and social mobility for workers and career seekers.
Our region covers the very large geographic area of Marin, Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties. With two rural counties and two urban counties, our region is a center for the manufacturing, wine, lumber, and life science industries.
Emsi Burning Glass data provides context that allows us to articulate the need for economic diversification beyond our wine industry to make data-based decisions instead of assumptions. We often show our service providers the industry snapshot, occupational snapshot, and job posting analytics to show them the need in the community for certain programs.
We are able to see from a GRP standpoint, the hospitality, food, and beverage industry is at the top, but wages are only at $41,000. Our growth in the lower-wage jobs is the reason our Talent Attraction Scorecard ranking has tanked in the last four years. The manufacturing industry and wine industries however are $90,000 annually for an average worker.
The job posting analytics report is our main source to look at skills. Skills gaps are important because they show us where and how to position our workforce to attract a certain industry. We want to show that there are a lot of people in our communities, who with just a little bit more training, can transition into an industry that pays well.
Emsi Burning Glass’s data informs our economic strategy to focus on life science occupations and industries since they are well-paying and we have a competitive advantage with our proximity to the Bay Area. From there, we can come up with an attraction strategy via NAICS codes and find businesses that are looking to expand.
One concern for us is this conundrum of more businesses hiring but having fewer job seekers. Businesses are doing a lot of hard work to prepare their offices for hiring again, but fewer job seekers are interested and two large factors seem to be childcare and unemployment assistance. Another concern is income inequality, since we don’t want to be making decisions based on perceptions instead of data.
If we are driving income inequality by adding service jobs that pay less where people can’t partake in the quality of life that we claim to have, then that’s where our economic diversification strategies and talent attraction strategies need to be.