By Tyra Pacheco
In spite of recession threats on the horizon, the job front in Massachusetts is slowly rising, according to state and local experts.
Massachusetts had an increase of 25,000 new jobs statewide in 2007, and an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, the lowest in six years. Heading into 2008, officials expect the trend to continue.
According to Linnea Walsh of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, employment in professional, scientific and business services is up by 10,500 jobs statewide since November 2006. Much of that growth is the result of increases in computer systems design and related services, as well as management, scientific and technical consulting.
“In 2008, knowledge and training will continue to be king for the job seeker and commodities valued by employers,” said Ms. Walsh.
For many years, career counselors have stressed the importance of schooling for those seeking employment, but in today’s job market, higher education is more important than ever.
“Sixty-three percent of jobs require college level skills,” said Jean Fox, Literacy Entrepreneur at the Greater New Bedford Workforce Investment Board. “A high school diploma does not give you the options it used to.”
According to the Greater New Bedford Workforce and Investment Board, some of the fields experiencing job growth in SouthCoast over the past year are educational and health services, transportation, utilities, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.
With commercial development on the rise in the SouthCoast region, one of the hottest employment areas this year will be in retail.
In the new Wareham Crossing complex alone, 800 jobs are being filled right now, according to Carl Waal, operations manager for the Greater New Bedford Career Center.
“The other big one is anything medical,” said Mr. Waal. “Medical supply and sales, medical software, nursing. These are good jobs, being filled by folks with technical skills and quality education.”
Recent college graduates who chose a rising field such as technology or healthcare will have an easier time finding a job than some of their classmates.
“Computer science majors of all types are very, very hot, with starting salaries for bachelor degree graduates increasing 4 to 5 percent over last year,” said Gail L. Berman-Martin, Ed.D., director of the UMass Dartmouth Career Resource Center.
In keeping with “the greening of America,” civil engineering and environmental sciences are also hot fields, Dr. Berman-Martin said, as well as nursing, accounting and finance.
“Across the country, hiring will be up by 7 percent,” said Dr. Berman-Martin. “On a more local level, in the northeast, hiring will be up by 22 percent for college graduates.”
“What’s not hot is manufacturing,” said Mr. Waal. “But it’s maintaining. You see a lot about businesses that are closing, but there are businesses that are growing.”
“Anything we can outsource to other countries with cheap labor, those are the areas that are not going to expand,” said Dr. Berman-Martin.
Workers in those fields often find themselves seeking a totally different kind of job, which can require retooling of technology skills to match a job market which has changed dramatically over the last several years.
“If you don’t have computer skills, if you are not technologically astute, you are really behind the eight-ball,” said Dr. Berman-Martin. “If you don’t have a degree, at least take a few courses. Skills are transferable and people can add to what they know and already have. Training is never going to be a waste.”
One of the biggest factors in the increasing job market is the number of baby boomers who will be retiring in the next few years, vacating more positions than there are qualified people to take over.
More and more people are going back to school after many years away, to increase their skill set or make a complete career change.
“Look for industries where your skills can transfer,” said Ms. Fox. “More and more companies are requiring some computer skills. Don’t hesitate to check out the community college and ask for availability of financial aid.”
If finding a new job is on your list of resolutions for 2008, Mr. Waal has some simple advice.
“Get a resume and get some smart folks to look at it. If you’re motivated and want to work, there are jobs out there.”
January 13, 2008
By Tyra Pacheco