Local News

Job hunting? Check out health care

Posted January 6, 2010 6:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2010 7:14 p.m. EST

— Federal and state employment forecasts for the next decade put health care at the top of the list when it comes to job opportunities.

Although the projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Employment Security Commission are long-term looks that don't fully account for the impact of the recession, professions like home health care aides, nurses and nursing assistants appear to offer more prospects than others.

"I definitely wanted to pick a career where I have a lot of job security, and people always need medical attention," said Michelle Huerta, who is studying at Wake Technical Community College to be a nursing assistant.

Huerta, 26, said she plans to climb the nursing ladder to eventually become a practitioner.

"I think that nurses are definitely going to be in demand and in need. They're not going anywhere," she said.

Fifteen years ago, Wake Tech turned out 20 nursing assistants per academic year. Now, the college produces 1,200 a year.

"These programs continue to grow, and the specialization of health care has changed dramatically over the years," said Diane Cardamone, the director of Wake Tech's nursing assistant program.

Betty McGrath, the ESC's labor market information director, warned people desperately seeking work that their prospects are tied to a slow economic recovery. Still, she said, education is key not only for improving employment prospects, it's also a field of growing opportunities.

Teachers and other government workers continue to sweat budget troubles, but the need keeps growing, McGrath said.

"People will be looking for retraining. So, there will be opportunities for instructors and those kinds of jobs," she said.

Retail and customer service sectors took a hit during the past two years in North Carolina, but forecasts see sales-oriented jobs as part of the recovery. The same holds for jobs in food preparation and service.

Many economists also see possibilities for business professionals, including architects and accountants, after a rough stretch.

"Those jobs really took a hit during the recession. I think we'll see those jobs back," said Mike Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University.

Construction jobs also will be tied to any economic turnaround, experts said, but rebuilding from 64,000 layoffs in North Carolina – 25 percent of the work force – won't come easy.

McGrath said the higher number of unemployed means competition has increased for even the jobs in growth areas.

Fields that aren't high on the long-term job growth forecast include manufacturing and information services.