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Many teens understandably struggle with choosing a career. Even once a decision has been made, it can be hard to figure out how best to begin that career. Fortunately for young Delawareans, the future couldn’t be brighter or the choices more exciting. And more than ever, a four-year college degree isn’t essential to a successful career.
Indeed, the demand is huge for workers to fill entry-level positions that don’t require a four-year degree, and that demand stretches across almost all industries in Delaware and across the country. Additionally, there is a once-in-a life time demographic transformation that is boosting this demand: Baby Boomers, those adults born between 1946 and 1964, are retiring in record numbers and need to be replaced in the workforce.
“We have a retirement problem in business,” says Michael Quaranta, president of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. “Between now and 2029, an average of 10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring every day.”
An added bonus for those getting ready to begin their careers is that as people throughout an organization retire, the opportunity for career advancement will become even more rapid and diverse. Additionally, most industries have active programs for workforce diversity that surpass all previous efforts. There is also a huge range of career opportunities, both in traditional businesses with new needs and in new industries that merge traditional skills with entrepreneurial opportunities.
For any career path you consider, it’s important to have a checklist of questions:
- Will this industry and this job be able to maintain my interest?
- Will wages and salaries meet by needs and expectations?
- Will the job skills I develop be portable if I decide to change companies, geographic locations or even industries?
- Will advancement possibilities meet my goals?
Keep those questions in mind as you learn more about Delaware’s fastest-growing employment sectors.
The number one industry in Delaware in terms of jobs provided is health care. In fact, the largest private employer in Delaware is ChristianaCare, which offers dozens of different job opportunities.
According to Pamela Ridgeway, ChristianaCare’s chief diversity officer and the vice president of talent & acquisition, the health system is constantly looking to fill two entry-level positions that require only a high school education: patient care technicians and medical assistants. Further, ChristianaCare may help arrange for any training needed for certification. Another career path in health care is a more traditional one — nursing — and Karen Pickard, administrator of the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing at Beebe Healthcare, says “the need is huge as more nurses are retiring. And we have a two-year program for people just out of high school to become a registered nurse."
In Delaware, even entry-level registered nurses make $27.51 an hour, according to the Delaware Department of Labor. That translates to an annual salary of $57,200.
Nationwide, employment in health care occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. In fact, health care occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for health care services.
Diagnostic medical sonographers, who take and interpret ultrasound images, are expected to be in high demand in Delaware through at least 2028. The job requires only an associate's degree, and entry-level pay averaged $29.19 in Delaware in 2019. Other high-demand health care occupations that don’t require a four-year degree include phlebotomists, who collect blood from donors and for testing ($15.51 at the entry level); and physical therapist assistants ($22.62).
There are also many health care jobs available in auxiliary businesses and departments, including records and billing services, insurance processing and hospital supplies. Fintech
Financial technology, or fintech, grew out of traditional banking services. But with the advent of digital technology, standalone businesses developed that dealt with whole new fields such as digital currencies, instant payments and money transfers, automated trading in financial markets and digital asset management. As John Collins, partner in FS Vector, points out, many startups are willing to provide young employees with equity in their businesses.
Fintech tends to draw people with entrepreneurial spirits to startup companies that hope for rapid growth. It also helps to have computer skills, particularly coding, with the added attraction that these skills can be self-taught or learned at special camps or in classrooms. Anyone who has these skills can step directly out of high school into fintech jobs.
Jenna Grasley, who heads the emerging talent programs for global technology for JPMorgan Chase, one of several national banks with large business units in Delaware, says that she and the industry are constantly looking for software engineers and are “fairly agnostic” in how job candidates attain those skills.
It’s a common misconception that all tech jobs require college degrees. For example, positions such as web developer and computer network support specialist can be filled by those with associate degrees. Average annual wages in Delaware were well north of $60,000 for support specialists in 2019, according to the Delaware Department of Labor’s Delaware Career Compass. For web developers, the mean wage was $78,059. Coding positions are also available to those without four-year degrees, and nonprofits across Delaware provide the necessary training — often free of charge or for nominal tuition.
A prominent vote of confidence in the future of fintech came with the opening this spring of a $38 million FinTech Building on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus. Among its tenants are financial institutions, academic centers, small businesses, nonprofits, data and technology experts and the U.S. Small Business Development Center.
“Construction is the third-largest growth industry in Delaware,” says Ed Capodanno, president of ABC Delaware, which is the Delaware chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. “There are a lot of projects underway, we have a solid economy and everything looks especially good for the next 18 months.” Those projects span a wide variety of activities from building houses to repairing highways to erecting office buildings.
Most entry-level jobs are in trades such as electricians, HVAC specialists and plumbers who are put on the company payroll and immediately start accruing benefits while they take nighttime classes in their trades. “Young people who go from high school into apprentice programs get an early start on their lives,” says Bryon Short, executive director of the Delaware Contractors Association, “and get to start making money immediately.”
Earnings in construction trades can be significant. One of the fastest-growing occupations — plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters — paid a mean annual wage of $62,892 in 2019 in Delaware. Electrical power-line installers and repairers did even better, with a mean wage of $74,554. HVAC mechanics and installers made $52,469 on average.
Advanced Manufacturing, Logistics and HospitalityAlthough traditional manufacturing jobs have declined in recent decades, those in advanced manufacturing— defined as production jobs that utilize cutting-edge computerized skills, including automated intelligence— continue to grow in areas such as pharmaceuticals, apparel manufacturing and even agriculture. Plus job openings will increase as a cadre of older workers retires.
Jobs in manufacturing that are worth considering include chemical technician (with a mean wage of$62,496) and repairer of commercial and industrial equipment ($66,992).
Recent headlines have shown the growing needs and demands for effective logistics — storing and shipping goods from one area to another and being able to enact the algorithms to track it all. The job needs range from computerized skills to fleet management operators to commercial driving.
The median annual pay for truckers in Delaware was $46,846 in 2019. Other in-demand positions in logistics include aircraft mechanics and service technicians (paid an average of $66,768 in 2019 in Delaware); captains, mates and pilots of water vessels ($77,610); and commercial pilots ($104,234).
One of the most flexible industries in Delaware is hospitality, which includes restaurant, lodging and tourism jobs. Workers at all levels are in high demand, and this is a particularly appealing industry for people who want mobility and portability of skills. Additionally, much of the training is on the job. By 2029, the number of Delaware restaurant jobs is expected to grow by 8.9% to 50,200.
“The future is bright for people just coming out of school,” Quaranta says, “while those seeking white-collar jobs will see a decline in opportunities.