By Betsy Natter
Sometimes “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is not merely a question for children. Employment choices are a serious consideration for young adults, those seeking a career change or workers who may suddenly find themselves needing to find employment following a layoff. But what is the best way to determine a career direction?
While there is plenty of free advice out there to “do what you love” and follow your passions, following your heart 100% may not always get you a job. You may love to sing and rock out on your ukulele at home, but not everyone finds a successful music career easy to attain. Fortunately there are plenty of practical tools available at your fingertips and locally for those charting a new career path.
Looking forward, employment predictions are important in career planning as they indicate where to expect job openings and continued growth within particular segments of the workforce. For example, according to the Economic Review of Pennsylvania Report for 2016 released recently by the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, 79% of the state’s annual employment growth through 2024 will be in the areas of education and health services, professional and business services, and the leisure and hospitality industries. This lines up with statistics reflecting Bucks County’s own employment numbers, as the county’s list of top ten employers for early 2017 includes three hospitals, a health services organization and two school districts (17).
The new hire statistics for Bucks County during the 2nd quarter of 2017 also reflect that prediction, with the most new filled positions being in food and drink establishments, health care facilities, education, administration and support services, and technical and specialty trade contracting.
More specifically, the top emerging industries predicted for Pennsylvania in the next seven years are largely in the construction, health care and social assistance markets. This includes jobs in building, highway, street, and bridge construction, metals and equipment manufacturing, hospitals, health care services, scientific research, education, business operations and food services. Jobs are predicted to become available not only due to economic growth, but also as the current workforce ages and retires, thereby creating openings.
The skills needed to fill these positions are also indicated in the Center’s report. Employers will be looking for candidates with skills in organization, customer service, sales, financial management, health care administration and food services (25). In terms of technological training, knowing how to use office equipment, a computer and a variety of software programs will be a great advantage in landing a job. In fact, the ability to use Office, spreadsheet, email, word processing and database software will be required in more than 60% of the job openings over the next seven years (26).
Many of these skills can easily be learned and often for a low cost or free of charge. Organizations like PA CareerLink®, which has a local branch office at Bucks County Community College, exists to help individuals on their path to career fulfillment as they develop skill sets. They provide skill assessments and offer free training in various office software programs, resume and cover letter writing, interview skill development as well as provide career decision making assistance.
The PA CareerLink website also offers information on the state’s job market trends, available training programs, resources on translating skills into an occupation and information on wages and the skills necessary to pursue a specific occupation or career path.
The Center’s report concludes that during the next ten years, employers will be increasingly seeking workers who arrive with an education beyond the high school level, or longer-term training in a specific skill; less training is expected to occur on the job. At any rate, higher paying jobs will go to those who have prepared themselves for the market.