Low unemployment isn’t the full story

Educating our future workforce is key

Tom Davies, President, V. Sattui Winery
Published on July 21, 2019

Unemployment numbers are low but job openings remain unfilled

At the end of June, the unemployment numbers for Napa County were released and the rate hit a rock bottom 2.3 percent, which was stated as the lowest in 29 years. While it is admirable that people who want to work are largely employed, the statistics don’t tell the full story.

The reality is that V. Sattui Winery and others in the hospitality and wine industries have job openings that we can’t fill for a number of reasons: Our public transportation system isn’t providing enough options to move people from Napa and south to the jobs up valley.

It’s become more expensive to live here so we are seeing people leave Napa County. And most important, we need employees who have both technical and soft skills, who are well-rounded and equipped to face new challenges.

There is one thing we can do as a community and that is to invest in the education of our local students. There is a perception that the wine industry is confined to working in the fields or the tasting rooms. Nothing could be further from the truth. This industry is multi-layered and there are successful careers available in finance, marketing, human resources, biology and chemistry, environmental science, manufacturing and distribution, customer service, sales and more.

V. Sattui participates in the NEXT program

To foster awareness in the hospitality and wine industries, V. Sattui Winery participated in an innovative program called NEXT – Napa Educator Externships. Co-sponsored by NapaLearns, Napa County of Education, and the Workforce Alliance of the North Bay, this program placed Napa County teachers into intensive three-day job shadowing experiences.

Almost 60 teachers were placed in a variety of wineries, hotels, resorts, and healthcare facilities to learn about the careers available and skills required for our students to be successful. Based on their externships, the teachers will integrate real work examples, problems, and projects into their core subjects and curriculum to expose students to jobs and careers available here in Napa Valley.

We were impressed by the interest of the teachers, the caliber of their questions, and their engagement with our staff members. We participated in this program because it makes perfect sense to support teachers responsible for our future workers.

We want students to understand what matters and what doesn’t as early as possible so they graduate from high school more prepared and competitive. We also want to instill a sense of pride in this valley and have our students be proud of what is uniquely theirs. This is a multi-faceted industry in a very special place.

We also believe participation in this program is a matter of community. We have a responsibility to give back and to keep the spirit of the Valley alive. We have hosted Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School eighth graders since 2006 as part of the Adopt-a-School program and we see the NEXT program as a way to reach even more students.

We look forward to having the teachers and students present back to us with their results next spring and to an ongoing partnership with our local public schools.

This article appeared as an opinion piece in the Napa Valley Register on July 21, 2019.