Emotional roller coaster for jobless man during pandemic ends on a high note

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Oakland man finds new career during pandemic
As the pandemic continues to impact jobs across the state and the nation, some are hoping to get training in order to apply for jobs in new fields. One Oakland man began his journey before the pandemic -- but now has a happy ending with a new job.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The latest numbers show state jobless rate at 8.2 percent, but that number is likely to increase with the recent state shutdown.

We followed the journey of one long-time unemployed Oakland man for months. His story may give hope to others.

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Then 9-month-old Dorian gives his mom a huge smile as dad Sam Black cuddles him.

Black has been unemployed since last year.

He worked in the film industry, but an injury made it impossible to carry around his heavy video camera.

"The surgeon is telling me I'm not going to be able to work without restrictions anymore and my union won't allow me to work if I have restrictions," Black explained.

He decided to go back to school to train to be a coder.

We first met Sam in May.

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The state gave him a $6,000 voucher for education. That's enough to cover about half the cost.

The 15-week program is demanding.

"I'm doing 90-hour weeks. And that's every week, 90-hour weeks. And that's what's expected," he said.

Sam graduated the following month and we caught up with him again in August.

The job search, which began in May, crept into its fourth month.

Frustration began to set in for both Black and Dorian, who you can hear crying in the background as his dad tried to talk to us.

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"I've had a couple of small bites here and there, but nothing very solid. It's been pretty rough for somebody starting out," said Black.

Richard Wang is CEO of Coding Dojo, the school Sam Black attended.

He says demand for coding jobs is still high and says most graduates during the pandemic will find a job in six to eight months.

"I think certainly companies may have put a pause on hiring, but those skills are still in demand," Wang said.

Robert Lapsley of the California Business Roundtable agrees.

"Not only will the jobs ultimately be there, but we may see real wage growth in those sectors coming back," Lapsley predicted.

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This month, Dorian is now a year old, growing fast and turning into a budding track star.

Dad has passed a big milestone of his own.

After nearly two years being out of work, he's accepted a job with SciPlay, a developer of online games.

"I probably cried a little bit. My wife cried. It was just, amazing," he exclaimed.

Black says the greatest feeling is to be able to provide for his family. Times are tough for a lot of people, but as Black shows, there's hope.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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