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Older workers face challenges in Silicon Valley

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 

While the Silicon Valley area has regained all its jobs lost in the recession, some older workers in the tech sector are feeling left out. An Economic Policy Institute report estimates over 450,000 jobs were lost or displaced over the past decade in California because of the growing trade deficit with China. The majority of these jobs were in the electronics and computing manufacturing sector. As Aaron Glantz writes in the Bay Citizen, these workers are having difficulty fitting into the Internet-based jobs driving the area's current growth.

greenjobs_family

Peter DaSilva for The Bay Citizen

ProMatch member Irena Koziol, a life science tech, got a standing ovation and applause after telling her success story about how she landed a new job during a ProMatch General Meeting in Sunnyvale.

The job market “is not the same as it was years ago,” said Massimo Sutera, 45, a microprocessor engineer who was laid off last year when his firm, Zoran Corporation, a video chip maker, was acquired by the British firm C.S.R., which promptly scaled back its Sunnyvale operations, discontinuing its investment in digital television systems-on-a-chip. “It’s a mess.”

While Web-based companies like Facebook and Google are scouring the world for new talent to hire, older technology workers often find that their skills are no longer valued.

Part of the problem, analysts said, is that many of the companies shedding jobs are technology manufacturers, while most of the companies that are hiring are Internet-based.

While employment figures published by the state Employment Development Department show that Silicon Valley’s technology sector has more than made up for job losses that occurred early in the recession, the rebound has not helped everyone.

Cisco Systems, a maker of computer networking equipment that is Santa Clara County’s largest private employer, laid off 1,331 workers last year. The semiconductor sector, which used to be the lifeblood of the South Bay’s economy, has lost 4,600 jobs since 2008.

“These are people who know how to run a factory floor, but most of these new companies don’t care about that,” said Connie Buck, a career counselor who helps run Pro Match.

As a result, the South Bay’s unemployment rate, which stood at 8.9 percent in December, remains higher than the national average.

Read more in The Bay Citizen.

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