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Have You Ever Thought About…?: Your Ideal Job May Be The One You Haven’t Considered

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Almost all high school students at some point become concerned because they have not yet settled on a career to pursue, or a path to pursue it — what do they want to do, what do they want to be? Even those who have decided to attend college may have pushed their decision “down the road” for a year or more. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80% of all college students change their majors at least once before graduating.

While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the high school years are a good time to look beyond impulsive childhood dream jobs and the professions that parents want their children to pursue. It’s time to start with a blank slate. It’s time to ask, “What would it be like to be a ____?” and fill in the blanks.

There are a lot fields and a lot of jobs out there to consider. Take, for example, hospitality. While many young people already work in food service, there are many other jobs in the industry, including those needed in lodging and event planning and staging. A similar diversity of job opportunities exists in manufacturing, financial services, health care and transportation and logistics — all of which are searching for job candidates here in Delaware. What’s more, most of these jobs don’t require a college degree.

For example, consider that being a truck driver provides lots of independence and starting salaries up to $100,000 per year. Or that working as a pipefitter, plumbing or HVAC specialist offers the opportunity to continue learning while on the job and getting paid. Or that job-hopping from place to place is often the way to gain credibility and learn more skills in the hospitality and restaurant business.

As Raelynn Grogan, senior director of the Delaware Restaurant Association and head of its educational foundation, points out, one in 10 Delawareans works in a restaurant and the industry employs more women and minority managers than any other industry. “ProStart has enrolled 3,000 students in 22 programs,” Grogan says, referring to a two-year program that gives teens the opportunity to gain industry credentials and earn certifications before they’ve even graduated high school.

Jobs available in hospitality may include line cooks, who alternate workstations and perform a single range of food preparation at each; kitchen managers, who make sure all the jobs are done right; and restaurant managers, who have to understand both food and customers. Such managers on average make wages in the high $70,000s in Delaware, and similar salaries are paid to lodging managers.

Many line cooks have career goals of owning their own restaurants, and, according to the National Restaurant Association, eight of 10 restaurant owners say they started at an entry-level position and worked their way up. Throughout the state, 20 high schools offer career and technical education programs in Culinary & Hospitality Management, whereas Sussex Tech and Milford High School offer tourism- and travel-centric programs.

Then there’s construction, which has dire shortages of workers in multiple skilled trades, good pay, and entry requirements that are low compared to other sectors.

“If a new employee shows up on time every day and stays off their cell phone, we can teach the rest,” says Jamie Chambers, director of workforce development for the Delaware Contractors Association (DCA). “And they earn as they learn, making money from day one.” The DCA is hoping to encourage participation by traditionally underrepresented populations in the construction sector, for example through its Black Skilled Trades and Career Council.

The main focus of contracting is building commercial and residential structures, which calls for many different jobs skills. “Most jobs require three-to-five-year apprentice programs,” Chambers says, “and the first year is learning hands-on skills.”

Nehemiah Parham, a 2021 graduate of Hodgson Vo-Tech, is now in a five-year apprenticeship program with UA Local 74 of Plumbers and Pipefitters. “Monday and Wednesday nights, we go to school for certifications,” he says, also noting that, in the beginning, there is a pay raise every six months.

“We especially need more electricians, pipefitters and HVAC specialists,” says Ed Capodanno, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware. “There’s a lot of building going on in the southern part of the state,” and there is still federal grant money available to do more, he notes.

Experienced plumbers and pipefitters make on average $73,486, but even at the entry level, wages tend to be above $40,000. For electricians and HVAC personnel, wages for experienced workers average $68,370 and $58,739, respectively.

Another industry to consider is health care, where there has been an explosion of jobs in the state. For example, the Delaware Department of Labor projects more than 900 annual job openings for registered nurses by 2028.

While registered nurses require a bachelor’s degree, many other health care positions do not. In fact, according to Loretta Ostroski, interim VP of nursing at Beebe Healthcare, many jobs aren’t associated with hands-on patient work. “We need people in registration, appointment scheduling, guest relations, nutrition, store- room operations, environmental concerns and clerical support, with some of those needing computer skills,” she says.

“For example, our patient care assistants go through a five-week training program, and they are fully paid,” Ostroski says. “They may work either in the hospital or in our physician offices. We even have ‘telesitters’ who monitor patients through cameras in their room” if those patients need attention, but not an in-room presence. She also says there is a “clinical ladder” where employees can add to their job skills in such areas as phlebotomy or blood testing. Demand for phlebotomists in Delaware is growing as well, with 2.4% average annual growth in openings projected through 2028. Annual salaries at the entry level are in the $30,000s.

Other jobs in health care that involve non-medical skills, Ostroski says, include positions in information technology, business and financial analysis as well as social work.

Also to be considered: the freedom of the open road. Bryan Ward, department chairperson for commercial transportation technologies at Delaware Technical Community College, dangles a powerful incentive for those who have never thought of being a truck driver: “In the first years, they can have salaries in the $65,000 to $100,000-plus range.”

While drivers may be on the road 11 hours a day, there are federal regulations that ensure adequate rest periods.

Ward’s training program takes 13 students per cohort, five times a year. Most are hired by trucking companies that normally have 401k programs and health care benefits. “There are students who want to eventually own their own rig, but that’s very expensive,” he says, plus there is the added need to find and maintain shipping contracts.

The Delaware Department of Labor has estimated that between 2018 and 2028, the transportation and logistics industry was going to add more than 2,000 new openings for truck drivers. And considering the presence of the Port of Wilmington and the proximity of I-95, Delaware makes a convenient home base for truckers. Another profession in the logistics field (freight, stock and material movers) is set to have more than 700 annual openings by 2028.

Far from being a dying industry, manufacturing has been growing in recent years, amid rising demand for U.S.-made products. In particular, jobs in advanced manufacturing

— which uses cutting-edge computer skills such as automated intelligence to make pharmaceuticals, apparel and much more — are in need of skilled candidates. Delaware in particular has a strong manufacturing base that produces $5 billion in manufactured goods each year, and more than 94% of the state’s global exports, according to the Delaware Prosperity Partnership.

Here are just a few manufacturing jobs where growth is projected in Delaware through 2028, and the average wages paid to those workers:

• Electrical and electronics repairers, commercial and industrial equipment ($67,683)

• Chemicaltechnicians($63,232)

• Electrical and electronics drafters ($64,230) • Industrialmachinerymechanics($60,778)

Note that none of the above jobs require a four-year degree.

Delaware has always had a strong job base in financial services, and that hasn’t changed. In fact, the traditional banking giants have added hundreds of technology jobs in recent years to compete with a burgeoning landscape of financial technology (fintech) startups.

While many people assume that tech jobs require a college degree, that isn’t necessarily the case. For example, web developers and digital interface designers can do their jobs with an associate degree, and can expect to be paid $79,373 on average in Delaware. Another job that requires only an associate degree is computer network support specialist, with an average wage of $66,102.

Traditional financial services jobs that can be done without a four-year degree include claims adjusters, examiners and investigators ($60,570), loan interviewers and clerks ($42,266) and tellers ($34,174).

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