Meghan Parrino Carmichael, R.N., B.S.N., enjoys her job as a floor nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. “Healthcare offers stability, which is hard to find now in the job market,” says Carmichael, 25. “Plus there are thousands of things you can do with a nursing degree.”
For young adults seeking a job in the Sarasota area, healthcare is one of the few bright spots. “This is one of the region’s stronger industries, adding more jobs than other sectors,” says Sally Hill, communications director of Suncoast Workforce, a nonprofit corporation that connects employers and career seekers in Sarasota and Manatee counties. “When we look at help-wanted ads online, we see a lot of healthcare-related occupations posted, especially for nurses.”
Other opportunities are available in education, tourism, retail and general office work. For instance, middle-school teachers, fitness trainers, truck drivers, carpenters and bill collectors are likely to be in high demand for the next few years, according to recent workforce studies.
“Teaching is an appealing career for many young adults,” says Terry Osborn, dean, College of Education, University of South Florida (USF) Sarasota-Manatee. “In this tight economy, young people have an advantage, as they can start as long-term substitutes making very little money but getting a foot in the door.”
On the other hand, there are not many positions available in manufacturing, information technology and the life sciences, reflecting the region’s relative weakness in those fields.
But with the right set of skills, a good attitude—and persistence—it’s possible for recent high school, vocational or college graduates to find an entry-level position almost anywhere in the region. At the same time, today’s first-time job seekers need to be thinking ahead, as the careers of tomorrow may look quite different from those of today.
“Sustainable and transferrable skill sets will determine who wins the competition for jobs,” says Robert Anderson, dean, College of Business, USF Sarasota-Manatee. “Flexibility and adaptability will determine the winners and losers of the future.”
A competitive advantage?
With today’s high jobless rate, young adults are facing stiff competition from older workers who are in their 30s all the way into their 70s. That makes it more challenging for teens and 20-something adults to find entry-level positions in fields like telemarketing, retail cashiers, office receptionists or bookkeepers.
But Hill says young adults have several potential advantages for many types of jobs in Sarasota and Manatee. “Their knowledge of technology is one of the areas where they can bring value to a company,” she says. “A business that wants to start a social media campaign, for instance, would probably seek out a younger adult.”
Many younger workers are willing to put in long hours at a relatively low wage to get their careers started, Hill adds. “As the older baby boomers exit the workforce, young people bring enthusiasm, new ideas and a fresh perspective to an organization.”
From the other side of the age spectrum, electrician Ed Russen, 59, says employers like workers in their 20s who are trainable. “They figure an older worker can’t keep up with the young guys,” he says.
Jessica Klipa, public information coordinator, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, points to other benefits for the region’s businesses. “Employers who are open to informational interviews and job-shadowing experiences will help college students determine a good direction for their future,” she says. “The bonus for employers is they get a preview look at the sharpest students—those who could be potential future employees.”
A cloudy outlook for summer jobs
High school and college students may have a difficult time finding summer jobs this year. “With so many people out of work, the competition for any job is difficult,” says Hill. “Young people may need to take unpaid positions or do volunteer work that adds to their resumes.”
Landscaping, pool maintenance and construction companies seeking unskilled labor may offer some summer opportunities for teens and college students. But retailers, hotels and restaurants are usually busier during the winter season and may not need to hire more people this summer.
Klipa says experience may be more important than pay for college students this summer. After all, an unpaid internship can pay off when graduation nears and students begin their hunt for an entry-level career position.
“In the Sarasota area, summer jobs are extremely scarce, as are paid internships,” says Anderson. “With the unemployment figure likely to be 8 percent to 10 percent for many years, summer jobs and paid internships may become a thing of the past.”
Education makes a difference
Not surprisingly, education makes a difference in terms of a young adult’s full-time job prospects.
Regional workforce studies show the most in-demand positions for high school graduates (age 18-24) will be retail sales, clerical office workers, receptionists and stocking clerks. For graduates of vocational schools, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants are right at the top of the list. At the bachelor’s degree level, demand will be strongest for elementary school teachers, accountants and auditors.
As the region’s economy slowly recovers, new jobs will be created in the construction trades. Hill notes that young adults can start learning a trade now in anticipation of higher demand for carpenters, electricians, welders, plumbers and air conditioning specialists.
The expansion of Port Manatee may create more jobs in the manufacturing and construction sector, particularly for smaller firms, Anderson adds.
At the other end of the spectrum, a recent study by the state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation found that there is an oversupply in police and fire and safety positions such as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and corrections officers. One possible reason: Many older workers laid off from prior positions switched careers and entered these fields.
The creative fields
From web design to photography, art and advertising, young adults with creative talents may be in the best position to shape their future careers. Institutions like Ringling College of Art and Design and New College of Florida turn out a steady stream of graduates who enter the creative professions. However, many leave the area for cities like Orlando, Chicago, Boston and New York, which offer far more entry-level positions.
But there are opportunities in information technology (IT) and global business close to home, according to Sunita Lodwig and John Wiginton, IT professors at USF Sarasota-Manatee. They expect strong demand for graduates with skills in security, social media, network administration, managed services and global business support.
Regional demand for M.B.A.s is likely to be flat, since larger companies and professional firms have not yet shifted into a growth mode, Anderson says. “But there is a new market emerging for M.B.A.s specializing in information technology,” he adds. Physicians and other healthcare professionals are also enrolling in M.B.A. programs to add business credentials to their medical skills.
While a few young entrepreneurs hit the jackpot in their teens and 20s, they are clearly the exception. “Starting a business is a challenge at any age, but it’s even more difficult when one has limited experience in the world of work,” says Hill, who adds that participants in the workforce agency’s 12-week “entrepreneur boot camp” program are mostly older adults.
Hill says entrepreneurial success requires at least some capital investment, as well as the willingness to work long hours without immediate returns. “Any young adult who thinks you can start a business and make $100,000 the first year has unrealistic expectations,” she says.
Few college graduates have the experience, knowledge or skills necessary for entrepreneurial success, adds Anderson. “Most successful entrepreneurs work in an industry long enough to determine a better way to accomplish a task or process,” he says. “That can become their competitive edge in the future.”
Healthcare leads the way
For at least the next decade, healthcare will clearly be a key sector in Sarasota’s economy. Many employers are expanding their facilities, and more professionals and support personnel like Meghan Carmichael, the floor nurse at Sarasota Memorial, will be needed to care for the region’s aging population.
As a young professional who moved to the region and put down roots, Carmichael is one of the success stories in Sarasota’s challenging job market. Back in 2005, Carmichael was a student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, she volunteered to help patients in a makeshift hospital at the school’s basketball arena. “I found out I wanted a career that involved caring for people,” she says.
Like other young workers, Carmichael emphasizes the importance of continuing her studies. “One of the things I like most is that the hospital is huge in promoting education,” she says. “I know that in healthcare or any other profession, once you get a job is when your real training begins. You have to keep an open mind and take advantage of those on-the-job opportunities to keep on learning.”
Tips for job applicants
— Choose a major early in college
— Look for internship positions (paid or unpaid)
— Find a mentor
— Be willing to work nights and weekends
— Prepare a strong resume
— Tap your personal network—“who you know”
— Get recommendations from teachers, supervisors and co-workers
High-Job Growth Occupations Nationally
(2010 through 2018)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Top Occupations for Job Growth in Southwest Florida (2010-2018)
Annual Change* / Annual% Change*
High School Graduates
|Retail Salespersons||+ 613||2.51%|
|Office Clerks, General||+ 332||2.85%|
|Stock Clerks and Order Fillers||+ 273||1.90%|
|Receptionists and Information Clerks||+ 173||2.47%|
|Bill and Account Collectors||+ 76||3.27%|
|Team Assemblers||+ 56||2.50%|
|Hotel, Motel and Resort Desk Clerks||+ 43||2.28%|
|Billing and Posting Clerks and Machine Operators||+ 42||2.56%|
|Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria||+ 33||2.42%|
|Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors||+ 33||3.26%|
|Driver/Sales Workers||+ 30||1.95%|
|Nursing Aides, Oderlies and Attendants||+ 286||2.82%|
|Customer Service Representatives||+ 281||3.44%|
|Secretaries, Except Legal, Medical and Executive||+ 269||1.84%|
|Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing,
|First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers||+ 181||1.85%|
|Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||+ 181||2.54%|
|Cooks, Restaurant||+ 162||1.99%|
|Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses||+ 149||3.01%|
|Home Health Aides||+ 149||3.91%|
|Maintenance and Repair Workers, General||+ 143||2.04%|
|Truck Drivers, Heavy and Tractor-Trailer||+ 132||2.89%|
|Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education||+ 204||3.62%|
|Accountants and Auditors||+ 166||2.91%|
|Management Analysts||+ 96||3.33%|
|Middle School Teachers, Except Special & Voc. Education||+ 87||3.56%|
|Personal Financial Advisors||+ 68||4.84%|
|Civil Engineers||+ 44||4.26%|
|Securities and Financial Services Sales Agents||+ 43||2.60%|
|Special Education Teachers, Preschool-Elementary||+ 37||3.83%|
|Public Relations Specialists||+ 37||3.57%|
|Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education||+ 36||3.54%|
|Training and Development Specialists||+ 33||4.16%|
*The number of jobs added each year between 2010-2018.
Source: Workforce Regions 18 and 24 - Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties