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Hundreds of local job seekers were able to network and meet with potential employers Wednesday afternoon during the return of the annual Lompoc Valley Job and Resource Fair.

The fair, held in the Dick DeWees Community and Senior Center, was the centerpiece of a trio of events organized primarily by the Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board as part of the county’s “Workforce Week, Lompoc Valley 2019 Initiative.”

It was preceded by a “Get Job-Ready” workshop Tuesday and was set to be followed Saturday by Lompoc’s first-ever Young Adult Jobs Summit that was planned, at least in part, as a way to help combat the recent rise in violence that Lompoc has experienced.

About 60 organizations — including private businesses, local nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and military branches — were among the employers represented at the job fair.

The city of Lompoc’s budget discussions kicked off in earnest Wednesday night as city department heads detailed the ways in which cuts could negatively impact the community, and at least one City Council member called for slashing the salaries of city administrators. Wednesday’s workshop was the City Council’s first full meeting dedicated solely to the city’s 2019-21 biennial budget, which is facing a deficit projected at nearly $4 million. Community members filled the council chambers for the four-hour meeting, which ended in an impasse with council members giving direction for staff to compile further data to present at a future budget meeting.

Luis Servin, a program manager with the Workforce Development Board and event co-chair, estimated the fair ultimately would draw about 200 to 230 job seekers, a sharp decrease from the 400 or so who participated in last year's fair.

Servin noted the decline would be for a good reason: “The unemployment rate is a little bit lower this year than it was last year."

“But we do have a good turnout with employers … so it’s a job-seeker's time right now,” he added. “It’s a perfect time for job seekers to actually pick and choose with employers.”

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne delivered a sobering State of the City presentation Thursday afternoon that emphasized several of the challenges — particularly those related to projected budget shortfalls — that the city is already dealing with or will be navigating in the near future. Before concluding, however, she assured her audience of mostly business and civic leaders that the tone wasn’t meant to be somber.

Jose Lopez, 23, was among the job seekers browsing the maze of tables that wound through the DeWees Center’s main ballroom.

Lopez, a student at the Center for Employment Training in Santa Maria, attended the job fair with some of his classmates enrolled in the center’s business office administration program. 

“We came in to make contacts so that when we’re done with our class we can go out into the community and get a job,” he said.

Nathan Kindschy manned a booth that highlighted job opportunities at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez.

Kindschy said the Chumash enterprise often uses job fairs, with success, to recruit new employees.

“It’s very important because Lompoc is a big part of our community at the Chumash Casino Resort,” he said. “We come out here every year — same with Santa Maria — just to see if there’s quality talent out looking and to see what we can find.”

He went on to thank the organizers and said that he was encouraged by the people he met Wednesday.

“I feel like we’ve met quite a few good candidates for different areas, including facilities, food and beverage, and even for our winery,” he said.

Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne noted she wasn’t attending to search for a job but, rather, to show support for the organizers, participating organizations and community members who utilized the event.

“I just think that with the current economy, any time you can explore what options are out there you should do it, because it’s always a chance to either start a new career path or make improvements to the job you currently have,” she said.

The Workforce Week activities in Lompoc will wrap up with the Young Adult Jobs Summit from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club, 1025 W. Ocean Ave.

That event, which has been offered in Santa Maria over the past two years, will be a first for Lompoc.

It is geared toward teenagers and young adults preparing to enter the workforce.

It will include three parts: an employer panel for employers to give advice on job searches, a presentation on industry sector research that will include information on what industries are expected to grow, and a keynote address from youth speaker and motivator Edward DeJesus.

“It had to do a lot with the increase in violence,” Servin said of bringing the summit to Lompoc. “We wanted to kind of do our part and bring resources into the community.”

While the summit is aimed at young workers, Servin noted that parents of young job-seekers are also encouraged to attend.

Registration for the summit is open at https://lompocjobssummit.eventbrite.com.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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