June 08, 2014

Types of local job openings will change in near future

By: Mark DiOrio

Source: Utica Observer-Dispatch

Nearly halfway through the decade in which retail and sales, the food service industry and home health care are projected to provide the Mohawk Valley with the most job openings, a shift in the employment landscape appears to be on the horizon.

Every two years the state Department of Labor projects which areas of industry will feature the most new and replacement jobs. The last round, which focused on 2010 to 2020, found:

* Retail and sales should add a combined 500 jobs annually.

* Food service and preparation should add 360 jobs a year.

* Home health and personal care aides should add 350.

What those projections don’t take into account, however, is the potential for the 7,000 estimated high-tech jobs that are expected in the coming years thanks to the Computer Chip Commercialization Center scheduled to open this year at SUNYIT, the planned Marcy nanocenter and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance’s drone program at Griffiss Business and Technology Park.

“Health care, retail and restaurants will still be very important to the area, and I expect them to continue to grow ... but you have to keep in mind things that are not yet added to the mix,” said Alice Savino, executive director of the Workforce Investment Board of Herkimer, Madison and Oneida Counties. “In addition to

the high-tech jobs that we do know that will be coming, there will also be all sorts of support jobs that will bring in even more. We don’t have a crystal ball, but I think these growth projections will look much different in the future.”

Current jobs |should continue

Mary Lourdes Lounsbury, director of St. Elizabeth Certified Home Health Agency, and Joe Steet Sr., co-owner of the Steet-Ponte Auto Group, are confident that the growth in their respective industries will continue.

Lounsbury’s agency employs 25 various home care professionals and contracts out about 15 to 20 home health aides a week. She said the need for those aides has shot up every year, thanks to the growing aging population and hospitals trying to release patients sooner and keep them out due to re-admission penalties.

“Those things are keeping us busier and busier … and actually leading to a shortage,” Lounsbury said. “It’s a tough job and a challenge to retain people. There are different dynamics you’re running into, and it takes a certain type of person who really enjoys the type of work.”

Over the past few years, Steet’s six area dealerships have increased their staffs by about 20 percent, and over the next five, he said he expects to add at least five positions to each one annually.

About 20 percent of each dealership’s 50 employees are in sales, and Steet said he has managed to keep his turnover rate low by creating a profitable work environment for them.

“I make it a point not to flood the floors with salespeople,” Steet said. “We keep on enough to make everyone happy … but the more you sell the more you need. And that leads to more management and more office help, service and parts, administrative, all the way down the line.”

Steet said he has an expansion plan in place for when the onslaught of new high-tech jobs hits the area, but those positions could be knocking his industry down a few pegs when it comes to job opportunities.

Comparing regions

Mark Barbano, regional economist for the state Department of Labor, said based on the growth in the Capital Region that happened when Global Foundries brought its chip fabrication plant to Malta, the Mohawk Valley’s current top areas for job growth soon will be replaced by a new array of positions.

“Hypothetically … our projections would show an additional need for engineering jobs such as electrical engineers and industrial engineers … jobs in technician fields such as industrial engineering technicians and electrical and electronics engineering technicians … and also semiconductor processors and industrial machinery mechanics,” Barbano said. “And then there are other support jobs found in any large manufacturing facility such as managers, human resource specialists, clerical staff, etc.”

The interest level for those positions was on full display in April when more than 1,700 people showed up to a job fair at SUNYIT that was looking to fill 300 positions at its Quad-C facility that is set to open in December.

The college’s acting president, Bob Geer, said that in addition to the technical and engineering programs it already offers to prepare students for those jobs, it also offers training certificate programs that will qualify people for certain positions, and even more opportunities will become available in light of SUNYIT’s recent merger with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

“We are in a continuous process of building the infrastructure to prepare for what is to come,” Geer said. “We want to have a direct connection to the programs here and have all those entities working together in one rapid network.”

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