Jobs for Recovery: OC Center of Excellence Report Outlines Training Opportunities for Displaced Workers Feature Story

December 15, 2021
Hispanic business woman at a desk shaking a man's hand

For almost two years, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures have been forcing businesses across Orange County to close and reopen their doors, leading to both temporary and permanent employee layoffs. Workers across all industries have been negatively affected, and this is especially true for workers in low-wage jobs. In Orange County, those workers in the Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism (RHT) sector have been particularly hard hit.

To address the need for displaced workers to find viable occupational opportunities, the Orange County Center of Excellence’s recent report, Jobs for Recovery: Occupational Training Opportunities for Displaced Workers in Orange County, identifies in-demand, growing occupations that workers can enter after completing training at an Orange County community college or transferring to a four-year college or university. These occupations are projected to have above average growth and an above average number of job openings in Orange County.

Key Findings

  • Employment in Orange County declined by 8% (146,230 jobs) from 2019 to 2020.
    • Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism accounted for 55% of job losses in the county. Retail employment declined 8% (14,056 jobs) and Hospitality and Tourism employment declined 28% (66,155 jobs).
  • Of the nearly 800 occupations in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, 54 were identified as growing, in-demand occupations in Orange County.
    • Of those, 59% (32) have entry level hourly earnings above the regional living wage estimate of $20.63.
    • All 54 of these occupations typically require some form of training or higher education beyond a high school diploma.
  • Community colleges throughout Orange County offer training or transfer programs for 51 of the 54 in-demand, growing occupations. These programs can typically be completed in time frames that range from 1-3 months to over 2 years and can lead to employment in non-RHT occupations that have entry-level hourly earnings above the regional living wage.
    • Of these growing, in-demand occupations, 20% (11) are considered recession-resilient.
    • All 11 recession-resilient occupations typically require higher education, further demonstrating the link between education, employment stability, and high wages.
  • Workers that either lost their job during the pandemic, or displaced RHT workers that are considering leaving the industry altogether, may want to consider these 54 growing, in-demand occupations and related community college programs so they can advance to a higher-paying, more stable career.

Though the goal of the report is to provide workers with information about a variety of viable in-demand, growing occupations outside of the RHT industry, the authors note that there is currently a significant need for workers within the industry. Businesses—particularly restaurants—are reporting labor shortages and aggressively hiring to fill open positions.

COVID-19 Hits Orange County’s RHT Sector Hard

After almost a decade of job growth following the Great Recession, total employment in Orange County decreased from over 1.85 million jobs in 2019 to 1.71 million jobs in 2020, an 8% decline that eliminated all job gains since 2014. Though nearly all sectors were impacted by the pandemic, the RHT sector accounted for 55% of all job losses in Orange County. At the same time, although low-wage occupations accounted for only 39% of total employment in 2019, the same occupations accounted for 58% of job losses in the county from 2019 to 2020. This disparity highlights the impact the pandemic has taken on those low-wage workers who form the backbone of the regional economy.

For a full analysis of the effects of the pandemic on the RHT sector and to download the full report, Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Sector in Orange County, see our coverage here

Research has shown that workers employed in low-wage occupations, like many of those found in RHT, are more likely to transition to other low-wage occupations when switching jobs rather than advancing to higher-paying ones. Further complicating the dilemma that low-wage workers face are that the skills required for these low-wage occupations are not the same skills required in higher-paying occupations, making it difficult for workers to transition to other industries without acquiring additional skills or education.

To better understand the opportunities available to these workers outside of the RHT industry, the report identifies 54 in-demand, growing occupations that displaced workers could obtain with additional training at an Orange County community college. All of the jobs identified are projected to grow at a faster than average rate and to have an above-average number of job openings when compared to all occupations in Orange County. Significantly, the majority of these occupations have typical entry-level hourly earnings that are above Orange County’s living wage of $20.63.

Eleven of these in-demand occupations were identified as recession-resilient, meaning that they are less susceptible to job losses during economic downturns. Click here for more on the OC COE’s previously published recession-resilient jobs report, Resilient Jobs: Top Jobs During the Great Recession and COVID-19 Pandemic.

Occupations Identified as Growing, In-Demand in Orange County

According to the report, these 54 occupations are projected to grow 8% and to have nearly 46,500 annual job openings through 2025. While these occupations have varying education and training requirements, community colleges in Orange County provide training or transfer programs that can prepare workers for all but three of these occupations. To make it easier to identify the investment of time required for these programs, the report groups these occupations into four categories based on their typical completion time: Short-Term Training (1-3 months), Moderate-Term Training (4-11 months), Long-Term Training (1-2 years), and Pathway/Transfer (2+ years).

Notably, training programs for 53% (29) of these occupations can be completed in less than two years and programs for 24% (13) of the occupations can be completed in less than one year. As such, they provide important opportunities for displaced workers seeking to upskill and find new, more secure careers. And, of course, with more education and training, job seekers can expect to earn higher wages.

Short-Term Training of 1-3 months:

  • Home Health and Personal Care Aides
  • Massage Therapists
  • Nursing Assistants
  • Social and Human Service Assistants
  • Production Workers

Moderate-Term Training of 4-11 months

  • Computer User Support Specialists
  • Loan Officers
  • Manicurists and Pedicurists
  • Medical Assistants, Medical Dosimetrists, Medical Records Specialists, Health Technologists, and Technicians
  • Medical Secretaries
  • Administrative Assistants
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants
  • Teaching Assistants (except postsecondary)

Longer-Term Training of 1-2 years

  • Administrative Services and Facilities Managers
  • Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians
  • Computer Occupations
  • Construction Managers
  • Electricians
  • First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
  • Hearing, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
  • Heavy and Tractor/Trailer Truck Drivers
  • Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers
  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • Project Management Specialists and Business Operations Specialists
  • Real Estate Brokers
  • Registered Nurses
  • Training and Development Specialists

Pathway/Transfer Training of 2+ Years

  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Child, Family, and School Social Workers
  • Civil Engineers
  • Compliance Officers
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers
  • Computer Systems Analysts
  • Educational, Instructional, and Library Workers
  • Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors
  • Human Resource Specialists
  • Financial Managers
  • Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, Financial Specialists
  • Elementary School Teachers (except for Special Education Teachers)
  • Management Analysts
  • Market Research Analysts, Marketing Specialists
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Medical and Health Service Managers
  • Personal Financial Advisors
  • Postsecondary Teachers
  • Secondary Teachers (Except Special Ed)
  • Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
  • Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
  • Substitute Teachers
  • Tutors and Instructors

Though these programs require both a financial and time commitment to complete, research has consistently shown that workers with higher levels of educational attainment have lower rates of unemployment and higher wages. While the RHT sector had the largest number of job losses, the report concludes that workers from all fields can consider obtaining training at an Orange County community college for the in-demand, growing occupations identified in this report.