LIHUE — It took eight months for Carla Harringer of Kapaa to land on her feet. After two real estate licenses and a myriad of jobs, the Kapaa resident took a deep breath and started over almost 20 years ago.
Her life turned around when she visited WorkWise Kauai, a resource center that connects people with jobs, businesses and resources.
“I can honestly say if it weren’t for the training I received in 2000, I would not be able to own my own business,” Harringer said. “I would not be anywhere near as secure as I am now.”
And for the past 16 years, Harringer has been the proud business owner of Sky Blue Pools, a swimming pool maintenance business.
Harringer is among the 660,000 people employed statewide, according to July numbers from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
About 3.5 percent of the population, however, are unemployed. For the island of Kauai, July is down from June, standing at 3.5 percent. The month before, Kauai was at 4.1 percent.
“Those that want a job can pretty much find a job. It may not be what they’re looking for at that particular time, but work opportunities are there,” said Eric Nordmeier, WorkWise Kauai branch manager. “There’s a lot of jobs out there. Too many times people restrict themselves by job title, but the reality is sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get employed.”
By the end of the first quarter of this year, there were about 30,000 non-agriculture jobs on the island.
Statewide, there were 1,400 gains in the leisure and hospitality sector and 300 in educational and health services.
Nordmeier said he tells people to look at a “minimum livable wage for their particular needs” when searching for prospective employment.
“It may not be what they’re looking for at that particular time, but work opportunities are there,” he said. “Some of them may be the actual minimum wage they can survive on and some of them may be $30 an hour.”
Even when a person does find a job, Nordmeier said, it doesn’t hurt to be on the look out for something with a higher wage.
“If they have the skills and qualifications for something better and that opportunity comes over, I’m sure they’ll be able to make that transition and get hired,” he said. “Put on another hat, so to speak.”
What the unemployment numbers do not display are the demographics.
“Under 18, we usually have a couple who come in a month,” Nordmeier said. “Eighteen to 22, it steps up a little bit higher. But the 23-35, that’s (the largest) group. And the 35 to 40-something, that’s the next largest group.”
Harringer said people who are unemployed may need to gain additional skills to get the jobs they want or need.
“Go out there and get as much training as you can: what fires you up, what you’re interested in, what you want to do. Decide to do that first,” she said. “If you ever had a chance to advance yourself, take advantage of what training WorkWise have here.”
Nordmeier, who at one point in his life was unemployed for 10 months, said three things are important for employment.
“Employers are looking for individuals that require the minimum amount of training, show up for work on time and are dependable,” he said.