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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. 2021 Employment Outlook

Healthcare sector is projected to be the region’s fastest-growing industry during this decade

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

What will the 2021 job market hold for job seekers?

Karen Knapik-Scalzo, associate economist with the New York State Department of Labor Division of Research and Statistics in Syracuse, offered a few answers.

“The healthcare sector has many job opportunities in the Central New York region,” she said. “There was a record number of jobs in Central New York’s healthcare–– sector in 2019 prior to the pandemic and the pandemic has shed continued light on the importance of the industry. The healthcare sector is projected to be the region’s fastest-growing industry during this decade.”

While consumers quarantined at home and continue to spend more time at home, shopping does not happen at stores as much. That is why those supporting online shopping will continue to find work.

“Growing demand for online shopping and the development of local Amazon distribution facilities in Onondaga County has created job opportunities in the local warehousing-storage and distribution sector,” Knapik-Scalzo said.

These positions include material handlers, stock clerks, order fillers, forklift drivers, truck drivers and front-line supervisors.

Working at home, educating at home and recreating at home means that more people rely on technology. Knapik-Scalzo said that hightech and computer-related industries are expanding.

Beyond COVID-19, a few other influences are affecting hiring, including age demographic shifts.

“The education sector is a large industry locally both at the pre-K to 12 level and post-secondary level,” Knapik-Scalzo said. “It has many job openings, especially as baby boomers retire from the industry.”

Job titles needing employees in education include teachers, school bus drivers and attendants, teacher aides, and substitute teachers.

She added that healthcare practitioners and support workers are also in demand as the workers in this industry are retiring and longevity expands. Examples of these positions includ registered nurses, physicians, physician assistants, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, medical assistants, athletic trainers, home health aides and personal care aides, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, mental health counselors and nurse practitioners.

She added that the ongoing shortage in the agricultural sector continues to cause the industry to experience labor shortages for hands-on labor.

Across many industries, customer service representatives and sales support staff are in demand.

Joy Rinaldi, vice-president of operations at CPS Recruitment in New Hartford, Auburn and Syracuse, said that COVID-19 has only exacerbated shortages among healthcare organizations.

“Workers that have been working through COVID are completely burned out,” Rinaldi said. “There’s high demand.”

Workers who perform lab testing or COVID-19 screening are in high demand for the foreseeable future as the pandemic continues.

“Anything in technology is huge,” Rinaldi said. “From our own experience, call center workers — more companies can go remote with those types of jobs. Anyone who can be flexible to work from home is a necessity.”

The region’s growth in technology has created more demand for software engineers, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers.

“More companies are present to hire those positions,” Rinaldi said. “Companies that have been able to break ground here have been successful in attracting employees.”

She advises people who are looking for work to make sure their skills on platforms like Zoom are up to par so they can work remotely if possible. They should also ramp up their virtual soft skills.

“That customer or client is not just looking to see how they’ll answer the interview questions,” Rinaldi said. “If it’s anything technical in nature, what will they do if their audio or visual doesn’t work? Are they in a quiet, professional space? Are there dogs barking or children crying? Do they screen how they look and sound? It’s not a job skill but a new reality.”

For similar reasons, professional writing skills and phone skills are important too.

Some companies are hiring individuals to oversee their COVID-19 management.

“Companies never had to be as concerned about employees’ wellbeing and they want to make sure they have a safe environment,” said Carol R. Fletcher, owner of C.R. Fletcher Associates, Inc. in Syracuse, Fletcher. “Companies are being very conscious of the pandemic.”

She added that certain industries such as alcohol distributors are doing well, along with those involved with home furnishing, high technology and warehouse and distribution.

Those manufacturing masks, gloves, sanitizer and other healthcare items “will continue to be busy for a while. Not until the majority have received the vaccine will this wind down. People are cautious.”

She believes that most companies have tried hard to maintain their workforce.

“Companies are striving hard for their employees,” she said. “They’ve tried to be as consistent as they can through this.”