Got Skills? Economy will Likely Rely on Education-Based Recovery

By Steve Mahoney, Vice President of Education and Information Technology, American Sentinel
Posted

In the past weeks, there has been some great news about the nation's economic recovery based on a decreasing unemployment rate. However, one key issue we're still seeing has to do with the lack of skilled employees to fill the open jobs.

So the question remains: How do you get the skills to find the right job for you, in the right area of the country?

In the Highlands Ranch area, we are seeing some trends and options in the adult education community to create a lifelong learner and get well-positioned for opportunities.

Got Skills?

Looking at the job openings available, we see three key trends: 1) Healthcare, 2) Information Technology (IT), and 3) Sales.

Employers had 3.4 million job openings at the end of December, up 258,000 since November for the biggest gain since February 2011, according to a report this week from the Labor Department. Big numbers like those cause difficulty in understanding what the real trend and meaning behind those numbers is.

However, what it comes down to is that there are a lot of job openings if you are in the right part of the country with the right skills sets. In the Denver Metro and Highlands Ranch areas, for example, we have great companies and leadership under the Colorado Technology Association (CTA) to attract more to the region.

Nursing is also an evolving profession. It is driven by many external factors but the core driver is the need to move nurses up into the management and leadership tracks.

Yes, nurses have to nurse but there are complex technology and medical concepts that they need to be aware of and understand. Hospitals are quietly moving up the knowledge curve with their nursing staff. When looking at healthcare, it's important to also look at all the supporting roles in the industry from insurance to pharmacy to the direct nursing activities and to not eliminate any options.

IT is another professional area that permeates everything. IT is part of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all examples of ways that business people are looking to IT to grow revenue and look for new markets.

There is the traditional programmer but that is not where the value is or will be. The key skills for this expertise involve business analysis and technical integration. In other words, what is your business problem and how do I weave together all this technology to solve that problem?

If you look at the trends from government, they list healthcare and IT in the top-10 sectors for jobs growth over the next 15 to 20 years.

Finally, there is sales. Sales and marketing jobs are a leading indicator for an economic recovery. In essence, you need sales people to sell your services and products.

However, know that sales is very industry-specific and sophisticated. In retail, there is the connection and the engagement to create a happy customer who goes on Facebook or Twitter and raves about the product or service. In online commerce or sales, that weave becomes more complicated.

Now that you see the value in gaining skills for these sorts of jobs, you ask, what do you do to get there?

Hope

There is real hope for getting on the jobs bandwagon.

A few options exist from certifications that can take weeks to months and cost a few hundreds or thousands, to degrees from community colleges and affordable colleges. The sky is the limit on what is possible.

If you are interested in becoming a registered nurse, for example, you can get your bachelor's degree in about 12-18 months. On the other hand, IT can be very specialized and is always changing. Networking, analysis and project management are all skills that are sought after and cannot be outsourced effectively and are growing beyond the current supply of people. In April, when Facebook goes public with an IPO, there will be a renewed sense for IT and opportunities.

The key is to find education options that are priced at about $1,500 per course for certifications or about $300/credit in a traditional degree track. You will get a fantastic value for your investment. The general rule of thumb is that you should invest about 10 percent of what you believe you will earn in your lifelong education.

Get the right skills and you will never have to worry about a job again.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the options recommended, please contact me directly at sjmahoney@gmail.com.

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