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Choose Your Next Career

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For many career changes, you will have transferable skills.

When he graduated from Delcastle Technical High School in 2015, William Hickman knew he wanted to work with auto mechanics, but he wasn’t sure exactly where that road might lead him. So he first invested in himself by signing up for a two-year program at an automotive training center in Exton, PA, graduating in 2017.

“Then I was going to join the Marines, but I found out they wouldn’t let me select my job, but the Army would,” Sergeant Hickman said recently in a conversation from Fort Bragg, NC, where he is currently stationed. He is employed as a “wheeled vehicle mechanic — anything that has wheels on it,” as well as being a member of an airborne unit. Stationed in Germany during his first four years, Hickman also has had the opportunity to travel extensively while in service.

But now he is ready for a career change.

Rather than continue his service in the military, Hickman has decided to switch to the civilian side of federal employment and expects to soon be a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent with offices in Baltimore. “I will still be working in the government,”
he says, “and I will continue to receive health care, dental and other benefits.”

Hickman’s decision to change careers from the Army to the federal government illustrates an important fact: changing careers doesn’t mean abandoning the skills you have accumulated in your present career. In fact, it may give you the opportunity to leverage the skills you already have.

Financial Services
Take, for example, the financial services industry. Although banks may occasionally hire someone directly out of high school, Patrick Best, SVP and director of talent acquisition for WSFS Bank, says that WSFS would prefer to find someone who’s had a few years of honing their people skills, even if that had nothing to doing with prior financial or economic training.

“We’re simply looking for someone who has prior experience in customer service,” Best says. “We hire a lot people from the hospitality industry in particular and from any place where they might have had general customer experience. They may have, for example, worked on the help desk at a supermarket. We’re looking for people who are used to thinking on their feet.”

Those that Best hires then spend four to six months with on-the-job training, both in classes and at one or more WSFS branch banks where they “learn all aspects of banking,” he says. “After the first two weeks of training, they usually will begin working directly with one of our tellers.”

Best started out that way himself 14 years ago and gradually worked his way up, taking advantage of the bank’s tuition reimbursement program to get a college degree. And he loves convincing people to look at career jobs in retail banking. “Right now, we have 15 positions open,” he says.

Health Care
Similarly, young people might not think of a career in health care if they want to change fields a few years out of high school. But Loretta Ostroski, interim VP of nursing at Beebe Healthcare, says job switchers should give her industry a further look. “Beebe holds job fairs all the time — check our website,” she says, noting that the company is looking to fill a variety of positions in the hospitals, clinics and physician offices operated by the southern Delaware provider.

“We have people doing onsite one-on-one interviews, and sometimes we will offer a job on the spot immediately after the interview,” she says. Many of the positions have to do with nurse support, hospitality and customer services, security and environmental services. For some positions, Beebe offers a live chat service to give information and answer questions for prospective job candidates wherever they are located.

While many new hires into the restaurant and hospitality business come directly through high school training programs, Raelynn Grogan, senior director of the Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) and head of its educational foundation, says the organization and its members are also looking for older candidates.

One DRA program is called “Restaurant Ready,” aimed at people up to 24 who may have graduated or left high school and are now ready to enter the hospitality business. The DRA partners with community-based organizations to provide training in six work-ready competency areas designed to help participants acquire the skills, discipline and confidence to start a job and stay employed.

Grogan says the Delaware organization is also part of a national program called HOPES — Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society — which partners with correctional institutions to provide a place to learn and work for young people reentering society following incarceration.

In the transportation and logistics industry, the big employment driver is long-haul trucking, but that is only one of the many opportunities available. There is also a market for local and regional delivery drivers, whether for food services companies, delivery companies or fulfillment services. And transportation and logistics businesses are looking for people with business skills to fill office jobs.

John Feltz, railway division director and international VP for the Transport Workers Union of America, has pointed out that many Amtrak employees retired during the COVID-19 lockdowns and that the company is working locally to refill positions in Delaware. “Both the [Amtrak] Bear and Wilmington shops are running full speed and looking to hire more employees,” Feltz says

A new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute reveals that the manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. The Manufacturing Institute has mounted a year-around “Creators Wanted” effort to promote manufacturing and close that skills gap, culminating in a recruitment event known as MFG Day the first Friday of October. Manufacturers throughout the country are invited to participate in the event — to find out about employers participating in Delaware, visit www.creatorswanted.org.

There’s no doubt that manufacturing is an appealing sector in Delaware, as the state has seen a steady increase in manufacturing jobs, according to data from the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. What’s more, opportunities for job seekers are diverse in a sector that includes the production of chemicals, food, electronic products, pharmaceuticals, fabricated metal products, aerospace components and much more.

Even more appealing: the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that workers in Delaware’s manufacturing sector can expect an average salary of $77,547.82.

Finally, many prospective career changers may already have some grasp of skills like plumbing, painting or electrical work, all of which are greatly needed in construction and building industries, where employers will then provide further training.

“There is a lot continuous education available for additional skills and for safety,” says Jamie Chambers, director of workforce development for the Delaware Contractors Association.

According to Ed Capodanno, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware, the industry is anxious to put them to work. “There’s over a billion in federal infrastructure money available, but it has to be spent in five years,” he says.

In all these industries, employers emphasize that changing jobs does not mean starting over. And it also may mean moving up.


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