Job Trends in Central Mass: Winners and Losers
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Central Mass is lucky that it has its roots in healthcare, but other areas that employ many local workers are not so lucky. Worcester has a history of manufacturing, and if members of the workforce can learn to adapt, they can help stabilize fields that are undergoing drastic changes.
Specific occupations were also broken down, and healthcare lead the pack. The list began with Personal and Home Care Aides (41.33 %), Home Health Aides (35.30 %), and Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists (35.29 %). Dental Assistants also saw a large projected increase of 27.41 %, as well as Medical Assistants (25.03 %).
Healthcare Strong in Central Mass
Workforce Central One-Stop Career Center's Director and WIA Administrator, Donald H. Anderson says that there are a few things going into this equation that makes Central Mass a key player in the healthcare industry.
“Worcester is in a good position relative to healthcare jobs. We have the UMass presence here along with two very large hospitals,” Anderson said. “That brings a lot of people in to the city for treatment and requires a lot of kinds of jobs and occupations. The crest in jobs is the need for workers to have training past the high school level, but not necessarily going to the advanced degree level, meaning certificate programs and other credentials that are very much in demand, and can be obtained somewhat easily.”
Anderson said that the industry will also be seeing the effect of the Affordable Care Act, as will insurance companies.
“There are changes going on in healthcare. There are a lot of middle level jobs there. There are also changes in delivery,” he said. “There’s less use of hospitals and more decentralized delivery system, more assistants. People are opting for other non-physician and professions. There are also cost pressures on insurance.”
He says that whenever there are cost pressures in an industry, a business’ choices impact that.
“If they need to get by with fewer things or buying things from other businesses, that will happen. Every business owner finds out what they absolutely have to do in house and what they need to get done,” Anderson said.
But despite these pressures, Anderson says that fantastic things are going on in manufacturing here in businesses in Central Mass. that also include the medical field. “Medical device companies, bio tech companies. There’s a lot of niche manufacturing often with small manufacturing business,” he said.
“That’s where that middle skill level function is more in demand for employers. That’s part of where the predominant skill gap is. People finish high school, but their skill level is not adequate to match the need right now,” he said.
Industries projected to decline were construction at -21.0% followed by manufacturing at -15.8%, and utilities at -12.6%.
Specific occupations included Telemarketers at -24.49 %, Electricians at -17.78 %, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters at -15.24 %, First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Construction Trades at -14.14 %, and Carpenters at -14.21 %.
Labor in the Downturn
This projected plummet in labor, Anderson says, is partly due to the economy.
“A good part of that is a function of the economic downturn that we’re still in. Construction in particular remains slow. If there’s not a lot of public and private investment in building, those jobs will be impacted. Long term, I don’t know about stability,” he said.
Without a healthy mixture of private and public funding, these numbers won’t rise again.
Changing the Face of Manufacturing
For Central Mass, a lot of jobs have historically been in manufacturing, an industry that has been greatly affected by the technology shift.
“In manufacturing, we have seen overall declining numbers of manufacturing openings, all across the board. Often good quality jobs in manufacturing that require higher skills than we often associate with the job,” Anderson said. The difference now is that people come to the industry with the same mindset of the old practices.
“People don’t often consider manufacturing as a good job, because they come to it with an older mindset,” he said. “They imagine it being uncomfortable and dirty. There’s technical aspects to it now including blue prints, thinking, and being able to understand quality improvement principles on the job.”
Having good reading and math skills and communication, are all traditionally associated skills for the job, but they’re essential now. Adaptability, he says, is the name of the game.
“Even jobs that used to be lower skilled such as warehouse job – which were considered very entry level jobs – now all inventories in warehouses are tracked in software systems, and you’re operating a handheld unit that’s communicating with a central processor. It’s not just moving pallets and materials around,” Anderson added, saying that these jobs now with a few years experience can earn up to six figures.
Importance of Technology
“You have to have a comfort with tech as part of your skill set. That’s going to give you a definitely advantage,” he said. Anderson pointed out that being able to work with changes in the market will keep your career steady.
“We see a lot of folks who have lost their jobs in the recession who are older, and the best opportunities are given to people who can adapt to new features of the workplace. There’s a cultural fit for the person a bit older into a new business,” he said. “We’ve seen this rise in the importance of adaptability, developing the last thirty or forty years along with the disappearance of lifetime employment. If you’re lucky enough to stay at one employer your whole life, your job will change many times.”
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