What you don’t know can hurt you – Part 2
Sun News Service
It’s a sunny spring Tuesday in Truckee. Yvonne Ford, a 30-year-old single mother with a strawberry blonde ponytail and black work boots, squats to paint a grubby gray curb outside the Union 76 gas station off Cold Stream Raod.
A high school dropout, Ford is now making $10 an hour without benefits as a cashier at the station, about the same amount that she made previously at Ace Mountain Hardware, the neighboring Chevron station, Taco Bell, Burger King and McDonalds.
Ford said she thinks there are few other choices.
“You can’t move up the ladder,” she says, “You come home smelling like a Whopper, and that’s your day.”
She says she would like to find an office job, but even many of those positions are unavailable to her. Two years ago she applied for a front desk position and a job in the kitchen at Tahoe Forest Hospital, but said couldn’t secure a spot without a high school diploma.
“Ten or 15 years ago we would hire someone for a number of our clerical position based on experience or potential,” says Jayne O’Flanagan, human resources director at Tahoe Forest Hospital. “But the entry level requirements just continue going up based on technology and the sophistication of the equipment.”
Positions such as pharmacy technicians and medical records clerks, which were once available to just about anyone, now require not only a diploma or GED, but specific additional training as well, according to O’Flanagan.
“We are having trouble finding highly qualified clerical help ” somebody who is computer proficient and has the ability to work independently,” she says. “We have people with experience, but they can’t type or spell.”
The majority of jobs available to workers with minimal education levels on the North Shore are centered around the hospitality industry, and include positions such as cooks, house keepers and construction workers, according to Mary Mahoney, a labor market consultant.
“Placer County has been the fastest growing county in the state for the past five years, and Truckee is obviously another fast growing area. Even for a person with a diploma or a GED, options can still be limited,” Mahoney says. “Jobs are very competitive, and the person who is going to get it is the person who knows how to compete in this labor market ” the person who is aggressive, can fill out a resume and give a good interview.”
About one in every four jobs in California requires a degree, according to researchers at Sacramento State. Those same researchers also recently concluded that within the next 16 years, one in every three jobs in California will require at least an associate degree or more.
The benefit of having community education institutions such as Sierra College in the area is that even students who do not have a high school diploma can attend. Those individuals can take day or evening courses that will transfer toward a high school diploma, they can take job-specific courses such as computer proficiency and accounting to bolster resumes, or, if the student is over 18 years of age, he or she can work toward a two-year degree.
It’s a valuable system, though not always feasible.
Ford, who is only 11 credits shy of a high school diploma, says that she has tried to go back to school but that it hasn’t been in the cards.
“I want to go back, but it has been difficult to do here ” a single mom with a full-time job and a child with special needs,” she said. “But I would like to.”
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