Santa Cruz County employers find jobs hard to fill

Hilton, Threshold Enterprises, Fox Shox, Victorian Home Care hiring

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Representatives from Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley hold a job fair at Workforce Santa Cruz County in Capitola on Wednesday. The Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley is looking to fill several open positions. (Emma Brokaw — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

CAPITOLA >> Recruiters are beating the bushes to fill open positions.

“Right now it’s tough to find employees,” said Alejandro Hernandez, staffing specialist at Manpower in Capitola. “Jobs, we have them, people, we don’t.”

Wednesday afternoon he was trying to convince a caller to consider a $9.25-an-hour job at a Westside Santa Cruz manufacturing plant operating 24-7 to produce vitamin gummies.

“I do have people who commute from Castroville to the Westside of Santa Cruz,” Hernandez told the prospect. “They need people to start as soon as tomorrow. You have to work weekends. You’re on call. They always have hours to give you.”

At the state Employment Development Department office nearby, Rich Higdon, general manager of the Scotts Valley Hilton, was looking for experienced people for housekeeping, kitchen, front desk and bell jobs to fill openings in August when employees go back to school.

Hilton General Manager, Rich Higdon, interviews prospective employees for various open positions at the Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley during a job fair at Workforce Santa Cruz County in Capitola on Wednesday. (Emma Brokaw — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

He said he got good applicants at Wednesday’s job fair.

But there was no wait, no line of job hunters, as when Kohl’s and Target recruited during the downturn and jobs were scarce.

Unemployment in the county was 7.1 percent in May, down from 10.8 percent five years ago; June figures will be posted Friday.

A lot of jobs posted are entry-level, not good middle-income jobs, which “are going to be hard to replace,” said Charle Miksicek, program representative at the state employment office, observing that “$8-$10 an hour feels like a step down.”

Even the new minimum wage, $9 an hour as of July 1, may not attract people getting unemployment benefits.

“They do the math,” said Hernandez, noting 40 hours at $9 an hour doesn’t match up against a $450 unemployment check.

His remarks echoed the April assessment by Gretchen Martinez, senior account manager at Santa Cruz Staffing, that employers will have to offer higher compensation to land talent.

Jason Duron, 34, came to the job fair neatly dressed in white shirt and tie, hoping to land a position in Watsonville where he lives.

He’s been out of work for 18 months.

Miksicek suggested he try for a temporary position first, saying, “A two-year gap looks bad to employers.”

Hilton General Manager, Rich Higdon, looks for a bright personality and smile when interviewing for positions at the Hilton Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley at the job fair held at Workforce Santa Cruz County in Capitola on Wednesday. (Emma Brokaw — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

A Capitola woman inquired about the Hilton jobs, but left disappointed, finding the hours wouldn’t work for her family. She said she couldn’t start work before 9:30 a.m., explaining she has three kids she have to drop off at three different schools.

Another job hunter was looking for custodial work after recovering from back surgery. He said the search has been time-consuming because some jobs listed were not really open.

Ernestina Clark-Castillo, who relocated from Chico in 2010 to be a program representative at the employment office in Capitola, said her flexibility got her a job.

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said. “You go to where the job is.”

A Visiting Angels recruiter reported success at a June job fair in Watsonville sponsored by Workforce Santa Cruz County: 10 applicants, five interviews, two hires, with two more likely.

The state Employment Development Department is promoting several local job fairs this month.

Job fairs

Friday: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Threshold Enterprises, 2280 Delaware Ave., Santa Cruz has 135 jobs to fill. Details at

July 30: 1-3 p.m., at the Watsonville Career Center, 18 W. Beach St., Watsonville. Fox Racing Shox seeking assembler, bicycle service technician, CNC machine operator, inventory clerk and shipping clerk.

July 31: 9 a.m. to noon, Capitola Career Center, 2045 40th Ave., Capitola. Victorian Home Care seeking caregivers, home health aides.

Information: Visit or call 831-464-6270.

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