Slam-dunk Jobs. In the current labor market, the term sounds like a fairy tale or some myth from a bygone era. That's especially true if your industry was one of those hit hard by layoffs, like high-tech, tourism or telecom.
However, California can still be a place of opportunity for those willing to broaden their horizons and consider a different industry or a new career.
One of the most promising ways to re-engineer your career is to get some bio-tech training.
"Across the board, biotech is doing very well and will continue to do so," predicts Amy Gardner, branch manager of Yoh Scientific, a staffing company in Sacramento.
"This field hasn't been hit by the cooling economy, but has continued to grow," Gardner notes. "As the population ages, they will need biotech advancements even more in cancer fighting and other health applications."
Those interested in getting into biotechnology can find certificate or degree programs at a number of community colleges and state universities. UC Davis and Cal State Hayward both have highly regarded biotech curriculums.
"Biotech is going strong and most companies are anticipating great growth . . . so there are a lot of job opportunities in the Bay Area," states Kim Folmar, branch manager with BioSource, a biotech-staffing agency in Sunnyvale.
"We get many job requests for research and development positions as well as management in a research line and in clinical research."
Most posted jobs require a degree in biology, chemistry or in a related field, and five to seven years of experience in a laboratory environment. "We get a lot of calls from people wanting to know how to break into the biotech field," she notes. "We encourage them to accept positions that might be a salary cut but will allow them to get experience. Contract jobs are another good starting point. There is a lot of moving up through the ranks in this field."
A Sacramento-based private investigator for 18 years, Kirk Barner reports unprecedented demand for his services since 9/11. Barner's private investigator license, permits and years of experience could take him anywhere in the country right now. He points out that, for anyone wanting a career in the industry, now is an excellent time to start. The need for entry-level security personnel is at an all-time high and not only because of the threat of international terrorism - throughout society, crime prevention has become a major issue.
Myriad opportunities in the security field await anyone who is at least 18. For many entry-level positions, a high school diploma or GED will suffice, though more specialized positions require more education, a law enforcement or military background, or industry-specific work experience. Unarmed security guards in Northern California typically earn $8 to $13 per hour. Armed guards make anywhere from $10 to more than $20 per hour. Bay Area positions - with higher living costs, and jobs at facilities needing tighter security such as power plants and pharmaceutical factories - generally pay the higher end of the scale.
Wayne Galloway, California account manager with Phoenix-based AT Systems Security, notes that many managerial positions are also available.
Security companies offer many career paths, including investigative and consulting positions. To move beyond security guard, Galloway recommends a college degree in business management, law enforcement or criminal justice. Account managers see to client needs and manage the client-guard relationship. Their role can command a salary from $30,000 to $60,000 per year in Northern California, with bonuses for acquiring more clients. Upper-echelon management of interstate companies garners salaries of $100,000 and more. Careers in government security, such as the secret service, can also earn a six-figure salary as well as the excitement and adventure of international work.
The RN Shortage
Twenty percent of all RN positions in the state are unfilled and that number is projected to increase over the next five years. With the average age of nurses in California at 48, facilities are not recruiting nearly enough nurses to replace those who will soon retire.
Despite unprecedented legislation to encourage enrollment in nursing programs throughout the state, the shortage is expected to persist for many years to come. Hospitals are responding to the staffing crisis by offering nurses improved working conditions and better pay and benefits.
In Sacramento County, Sutter Health has about 200 open nursing positions. According to Nancy Turner, a Sutter Health spokeswoman, "We're always hiring. There's not a hospital in the nation that has enough registered nurses." With a new $200 million center for women and children planned next to Sutter General Hospital in midtown Sacramento, the list of available jobs will get even longer. Says Turner, "we are looking at where we need to add more positions."
Those who are qualified have an incredible array of opportunities to choose from. The Professional Nursing Service (800-777-6430) has current openings in critical care/intensive care, cardiology, telemetry, pediatrics, hematology, oncology, surgery and general medical.
If you have a technical background, you might consider a career in engineering, a field that has weathered the downturn quite well. "This recession didn't do any major damage to our business at all; in fact, it barely nicked it," declares Alex Cabezon, recruiting retention manager with BKF Engineering in Redwood City. "We haven't laid off anyone and we are hiring right now for civil engineers."
BKF, with branches in Walnut Creek, San Jose and Pleasanton, does civil engineering consulting and transportation design, but there is plenty of other engineering work throughout the expanding Bay Area involving both commercial and residential projects.
"It seems we are always busy," Cabezon says. "We did the grading for the CalTrans overpass expansion on the Peninsula and several school projects to accommodate more classrooms."
For more information, contact the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (asme.org), or the California Engineering Foundation (916) 853-1914.
Headquartered in West Sacramento since 1976, Western Truck School is the oldest and largest truck-driving school on the West Coast, with 20 locations throughout five states and a dozen sites in California. Prospective truckers must have a high school diploma, a GED, or pass a proficiency test. "You certainly don't need a college degree for this training," says admissions director Dean Toney, "but these days we're seeing students with all levels of education, including graduate degrees."
Training for a Class-A license through Western Truck School takes four weeks and costs between $4000 and $5000 in Northern California. Once the proper license is earned through a certified school, most students have an excellent chance of landing a job. "We have more calls for drivers than we have students," Toney says, "and have nearly 100-percent placement."
Long-haul companies almost universally reimburse employees 100 percent for their driving-school tuition. In most cases, employees must sign a contract agreeing to stay with that company for a certain length of time to be reimbursed.
First-year long-haul company drivers, considered entry-level student drivers, can earn $30,000 to $45,000. With a year or two under their belts, they earn the title of experienced driver and the right to negotiate pay. Annual salaries for experienced truckers range from $40,000 to more than $100,000.
Social Worker Shortage
"There is an acute shortage of social workers in all areas of the state," declares Geri Esposito, executive director of the California Society for Clinical Social Work. "The most severe lack is in the field of licensed clinical social workers in corrections, hospital social work and in the public sector of mental health. A number of jobs with nonprofit organizations are going unfilled."
Esposito says there is an increasing demand for social workers in community mental health, such as working with people with severe mental disabilities. Social workers are also desperately needed in the field of aging and gerontology and at expanding skilled-nursing facilities.
Esposito encourages those who have been out of the profession or in another career to rethink social work. "One of the things I found in teaching is that students with any type of work experience who had direct contact with the public were in a much better position to learn social work."
"[Social work] considers people in their own environment - their home and family - and how they can adjust to life's events," Esposito explains. Social workers all learn some principles of counseling or direct practice with individuals, families, groups and couples. Many social workers qualify for membership in counseling and therapy organizations such as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.
Prospects for continued employment look strong in the profession. According to a recent issue of Newsweek magazine, the demand for social workers places the profession among the top ten occupations of the 21st century. The number of jobs is expected to grow 25 percent over the next three years. Salaries have improved, putting wages on par with teaching and law enforcement.
Socialservice.com is a great place for social workers and other social service professionals to find opportunities, such as in mental health, substance abuse, youth, medical social work, criminal justice, domestic violence, counseling, community organizing and outreach, homelessness and a variety of other areas. Job openings are submitted by social service employers in every state, and hundreds of links are provided to many social service agencies in California.
FamiliesFirst, which provides services to children and families in Northern California, has many career-track positions open.
"We hire social workers, clinical supervisors, behavior analysts, counselors and other social service workers," Chief Executive Officer Evelyn Praul notes.
"Whenever possible, FamiliesFirst hires from within, so there are career paths available."
FamiliesFirst began operating in Davis in 1974 and has grown to 750 employees in 15 locations, including Sacramento, Davis, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, San Jose, Oakland, Concord, Hercules, Fairfield, Pleasant Hill and Mt. Diablo. For more information, call 1-800-698-4968.
Get a Little Class
Finally, no article about hot jobs would be complete without a mention of California's ongoing need for teachers. As boomers begin to retire and the number of school-age children continues to grow, experts estimate California will need 300,000 teachers over the next decade. Teachers are especially needed in bilingual education, mathematics, special education and science. But your particular background and experience aren't nearly as important as your desire to make a difference and play a key role in shaping the future of California's youth. For the Teacher Recruitment Center in your area, call 1-888-CALTEACH.
Next Week: Fields with the Best Forecasts for Growth
Check these sources for more information on these slam-dunk industries:
- Bio.com - News, information, career resources and job listings in the life sciences industry.
- BioSpace.com - Emphasis on Bay Area openings.
- BioView.com - Listings and resources for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and general science jobs.
- Medzilla.com - Job listings and resources for the biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, health and science industries.
- SciWeb.com - Information, resources, job listings and links for life science professionals.
- dca.ca.gov/bsis - California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. Job descriptions, licensing requirements, fees, and training information.
- pimag.com - P.I. Magazine is the largest, most comprehensive, independent magazine for the private investigation business in the US.
- The California Association of Licensed Security Agencies, Guards, and Associates - 1-866-310-2551; calsaga.org
- SecurityMagazine.com - Security Magazine provides daily industry news, informative articles, classified ads, an email newsletter and much more.
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - ieee.org, a nonprofit, technical professional association.
- The National Society of Professional Engineers - nspe.org
- Engineering Central - engcen.com, job listings and resources for engineers.
- EngineeringJobs.com - job listings and resources for engineers.
- Interec.net - starting point for an engineering job search on the Internet.
- WesternTruckSchool.com - oldest and largest truck school in Northern California offering day, night and weekend classes, job assistance and financing. (888) 860-1226
- BestTruckingSchools.com - another directory of truck driving schools.
- APTDA.com - Association of Professional Truck Drivers of America (APTDA), nonprofit organization that offers truck drivers low rates on insurance as well as discounted products and services.
- CDLtest.com - Commercial Driver Testing Services offers CoDL preparation course and skills examination, and preparation materials such as videos, sample tests, and literature.
- BestDriverJobs.com - Best Driver Jobs, Inc., offers links to companies nationwide, fuel prices, calendar of events, and more.
- cps.ca.gov/mss/socialworker.asp - Merit System Services handles placement for several counties throughout the state.
- naswca.org - California chapter of NASW.
- SocialService.com - Excellent job search site for social workers, psychologists, etc.
- SocialWorkSearch.com - Provides information and links to other websites of interest to social workers and other helping professionals.
- MentalWeb.com - Provides job listings and career resources in the field of mental health.
- CalTeach.com - The premier website for learning how to become a teacher in California. Also provides links to the various teacher recruitment centers throughout the state.
- Ed-Join.org - Every school district in the state posts their vacancies here. Search job openings by state or school district. Also post your resume online.
- RecruitingTeachers.com - The National Teacher Recruitment Clearinghouse's website provides insight and information on teacher responsibilities, opportunities, and requirements. Excellent resource also spells out effective job-search strategies.
- CTA.org - Website for the California Teachers Association. (916) 442-5895
- Teachers.net - A nationwide database of job openings, along with various resources for teachers in general.