More and more Latinos struggle to find jobs and reports continue to show that Hispanics are disproportionately hit with unemployment and the recession.
But administration officials say employment opportunities are not as scarce as everyone believes.
The latest job numbers for the month of August left Latinos with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate and it’s been said that many of the jobs that are returning are lower level jobs than the ones lost.
As the president eyes his reelection prospects for November and continues to court the Latino vote, the grim job reports might hurt him. An estimated 60 percent of Latinos perceive they have been hardest hit by the recession than other racial or ethnic groups, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Yet contrary to common belief, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said during a panel discussion Monday that part of the reason for this lagging effect among Latinos is that they’re not aware job options are within their reach.
“We have a litany of programs available for young people, but not enough Latinos are taking advantage of these programs,” she said.
The programs Solis is referring to are considered one-stop sources for career training. It can offer a needed boost to finding employment, she said. Programs such as Youth Build, Job Corps, and Workforce Investment programs, stationed in 3,000 places across the country, are examples of career centers that help individuals with skills development.
The Obama administration’s philosophy is that they have experienced 29 months of continued job growth adding 4.5 million jobs in the private sector. To keep on par with the latest figures, they’re campaigning on a need for individuals to exercise similar skills.
She referred to the case of Fernando Caballero, a native from El Salvador, laid off after working 10 years as a department supervisor at a Home Depot.
Caballero was unemployed for a year before he was introduced to a Workforce Investment program where counselors helped him identify his career strengths, since he was interested in retail.
“He (counselor) checked my resume and background and he said ‘Look if you want that, you can go another way because you have potential in other ways,’” said Caballero. “He changed my mind, he changed my life, he changed everything.”
In less than one year, Caballero got three licenses in electrical, AC and plumbing.
Caballero now works as a maintenance engineer. The El Salvardoran father was invited to discuss his situation among an audience of Latino policymakers at the Department of Labor as part of its Hispanic Heritage Month program.
Obama’s job creation plan uses a combination of infrastructure spending, skills training, tax cuts for small businesses and hiring incentives. Still, Latinos are experiencing the highest levels of unemployment rates—larger than the national average. The fact that they were overrepresented in some of the jobs that were lost and underrepresented in two industries that spurred job creation also played a key role.
But Solis said there are reasons to be optimistic, including cases like Fernando’s. She added that there are plenty of stories like his that demonstrate that not everyone is looking for a “handout.”
“His story is very clear, very simple. One that can encourage other people who have lost hope and are out of work—maybe need additional skill training, but nevertheless have that drive,” Solis said.
“I think he has a lot of ganas.”