Workforce Investment Board’s layoff aversion program supports the County’s economic recovery efforts by helping businesses become more competitive

San Bernardino, CA (August 17, 2010) – The County of San Bernardino Workforce Investment Board is successfully assisting companies maintain employment through its use of federal layoff aversion dollars that are dedicated to help companies run lean and efficiently. The $1 million allocated to date in federal funding has helped 180 companies avoid closure and workforce reductions.

Just eight months ago, Pam Houston, general manager and co-owner of Houston and Harris located in Grand Terrace was forced to lay off employees. The best she could hope for at that time was to hang in there and survive until the sluggish economy recovered.

After the housing bubble burst, Virginia Aragon, Human Resources Manager at Omnia Furniture in Ontario, stopped hiring and began reducing employee work hours in order to cut costs. “We were trying to keep as many of our current employees as possible. It was very hard to turn people away who came in and asked for a job application,” she remembered. “Their stories were heartbreaking but there was nothing we could do to put them to work.”

As businesses cut back or closed down, unemployed workers flooded local Employment Resource Centers. The task to stem this tide and assist businesses to weather the storm fell upon Nick DeMartz, the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board’s business services supervisor.

Aragon recalls when business was strong, the furniture manufacturer representing brands such as Kathy Ireland and Arizona Leather, participated in the Workforce Investment Board’s job-training program. It was so successful that they hired some of the workers who completed the on-site job training. At the beginning of this year, with business nearing an all time low, DeMartz came to Omnia with a solution that would reset the course.

They began working with DEIVIN Consulting in May and already Aragon reports they have honed their internal communication systems to run a leaner, more efficient operation.

“It took an outside eye to come in and help us to see some of our areas of error here,” Aragon said. “We got so caught up in our routine and keeping up with work. We needed to make changes that would make us more efficient.”

Other direct benefits have been enjoyed as well, all helping to maintain the bottom line. Aragon has observed a reduction in the “re-working” from mistakes made on the manufacturing floor and has seen major benefits from developing a more responsive system to identify defective materials and prevent the slowdown of production schedules.

Although Omnia Furniture is still in the early stages of working with DEIVIN Consulting, the changes they have implemented have allowed them to go back to a five-day week and they have hired 12 new people in the past two weeks.

“It felt good to say we’re accepting applications again, Aragon said. “A lot of work is a good problem to have.”

For Houston and Harris, which cleans and video inspects storm drains, water and sewer lines, working with DEIVIN Consulting revolutionized their 23-year old family business.

While it has been an arduous process, analyzing and changing many of their daily processes including logging phone calls, categorizing clients, evaluating drive time and overtime costs, it has been worth all the hard work. As the consulting contract ends this month, Houston says that she is more positive about her company’s future than she was back in January and has the tools and insight to tackle any challenges that may lie ahead.

“When we first started our business, we didn’t need to advertise. We were busy just from word of mouth,” Houston said.

The consultant pointed out that with more competition in their industry, they needed to focus on marketing and sales.

“We are looking to hire a couple of new people and we have secured several new contracts,” Houston said. “Things are looking a lot brighter.”

In addition to dedicated one-on-one consulting, the Workforce Investment Board, in partnerships like those with DEIVIN Consulting, hosts workshops throughout the county for small businesses.

Space is available for more businesses to participate in this program, and interested businesses can inquire through the county’s Business Resource Center, (800) 451-JOBS.

About the Workforce Investment Board of San Bernardino County

The Workforce Investment Board of San Bernardino County is comprised of private business representatives and public partners appointed by the County Board of Supervisors.  The Board strives to strengthen the skills of the county’s workforce through partnerships with business, education and community-based organizations.

The Workforce Investment Board, through the county’s Economic Development Agency and Workforce Development Department, operates the county’s Employment Resource Centers (ERCs) and Business Resource Centers (BRCs). The ERCs provide individuals with job training, placement and the tools to strengthen their skills to achieve a higher quality of life, and the BRCs support and provide services to the county’s businesses including employee recruitment.

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