Fresno's unemployment rate is in the spotlight

FRESNO, California

At Jain Irrigation headquarters in downtown Fresno, Human Resources Manager Patrick Koop is constantly posting job openings. And the starting pay for many of these jobs is around $15.00 an hour. "The extrusion technicians, the quality technicians, people that have experience dealing in plastic extrusion have been the most difficult."

This week, the Washington Post wrote an in-depth article on Fresno's troubled employment market where jobs go unfilled, but unemployment remains sky-high.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin says a qualified job pool is critical to turning the local economy around. "For more than a decade now in Fresno, we have been trying to deal with the roots of chronic unemployment and we know that a big part of it is education and training for the people who live here."

Since Jain Irrigation relocated to Fresno five years ago from southern California their workforce has grown by 800%. Even though they constantly have job opportunities the problem has been with the people who are applying for the jobs. They just don't have the technical skills needed to fill the positions.

Swearengin says according to a workforce, survey 7,000 jobs in Fresno County are unfilled because of unskilled applicants. "A lot of the jobs that are going unfilled require a level of training or skill. They may not require a college education or even an associate's degree but they require some type of technical training."

Since it's become such a challenge to fill those specialized positions, managers at Jain Irrigation say many of their recruits are hired from other competing companies. But in this job climate, even offering more money isn't a guarantee.

Koop said, "In this economy, people aren't willing to jump from company to company if they have a job and I don't blame people."

Swearengin adds, "Clearly there aren't enough jobs but that's not to say there aren't any jobs."

The mayor says the best approach to find a job is to look in an industry that interests you and then get training or skills you will need to top the competition.

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