Hanalei unites to match jobs, local workers

You might not know it just by looking, but Hanalei is a tense community.

The area from ‘Aliomanu to Ha’ena, possibly more so than other parts of the island, has seen a mass influx of newer arrivals from other parts of the world, who are sometimes equipped with more marketable skills and education than long-time residents.

That has created notable tension that the Kauai North Shore Business Council (KNSBC) hopes to ease through a series of gatherings, programs and other initiatives designed to, among other things, match employers with resident employees, said Felicia Cowden, KNSBC president.

“We hope if folks are more easily able to earn a living consistent with their values, there will be better opportunities for our residents, less pressure to move away, and less overall tension in the community,” she said.

“We need to grow strong together,” said Cowden.

And the KNSBC intends to be the conduit through which powerful information and resources flow to benefit both North Shore businesses and residents who may not know about the myriad of free and inexpensive training, availability of child care, loan programs for those thinking about starting their own businesses, and other services available on the North Shore.

“We propose to partner with North Shore employers, individuals and the many agencies that share the goal of growing our economy in a community-based manner,” she said.

Through the council’s Now Hana Network (rhymes with “pau hana,” but is now work, not pau work), the council hopes to build partnerships that will lead to financially healthier households and businesses, and lay the foundation for the community’s continued vibrancy and longevity, she explained.

The council plans to gather a broad list of potential jobs on the North Shore, learn from business owners the kind of job skills they look for in potential employees, and learn from workers what they would like to achieve, she continued.

Already, the community is getting behind the idea, with the Kauai Teen Work Force Program of Hale Halawai ‘Ohana ‘o Hanalei offering youngsters chances to learn job skills while working for $6 to $8 an hour.

Coaches and mentors for the youngsters require a variety of skills, and can be paid between $12 and $15 an hour.

The council has a free party planned for Thursday, Sept. 26, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Bamboo Bamboo in Hanalei Center, with food, job listings, information on training opportunities and other resources, networking opportunities for employers and potential workers, music by John Cruz, and more.

The Kauai Workforce Investment Board and KNSBC are sponsors of the Now Hana Party at Bamboo Bamboo, where the host is Joel Guy, a Hanalei native, restaurant general manager and vice president of KNSBC.

More information on the council, and party, are available from Cowden, of Hanalei Surf Company in Hanalei Center, 828-9865; Guy, 635-6589; or Mike Guilbeault at Bank of Hawaii, 827-8349.

“We’re trying to help bring all these opportunities to the awareness of North Shore residents and anyone else interested,” Cowden said.

For example, a North Shore school offers fully-funded child care to income-qualifying families, a service that includes pickup, drop-off, breakfast and lunch, she said.

There are North Shore residents willing to loan land to people who need room to start a business, and others who under certain circumstances will loan money to promising new or expanding businesses, she continued.

Too many “young people either leave or lose traction,” said Cowden, who as a long-time North Shore resident has witnessed due to lack of meaningful job and career opportunities an exodus or disconnection of young people.

This has led to tangible frustration, especially from those who went to school and grew up on the North Shore, who have seen available jobs gobbled up by newer residents, she explained.

There are a variety of Web sites available for those seeking jobs or training, including the KNSBC site, www.knsbc.kauaistyle.com/, the Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network Kauai branch, www.hawaii-sbdc.org/, the U.S. Small Business Administration in Hawai’i, www.sbahawaii.org, the state WorkWise! program, www.workwisekauai.com/, the Hawaii Job Bank, web0.dlir.state.hi.us/seeker/index.asp, and The Garden Island newspaper’s help-wanted advertisements, www.kauaiworld.com/.

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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