Occupational Planning Exercise

An El Monte high school sophomore received an assignment in her English class that all students contemplating applying to college and eventually entering the workforce should perform.  

The assignment required her to discover a job she would want to perform in the future and describe that position in as much detail as possible: the type of work environment, how many hoursdailyrequired,  the annual compensation, how many years of schoolingrequired to perform the job, andthe job’s growth prospects. She was to begin her research at the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) and then investigate websites, articles and wherever   her imagination and raw curiosity might take her.

Searching through the OOH, she began looking for occupations that paid $75,000+ and had growth projections of 30% or better over the next 10 years. This list contained nurse practitioners (provide primary care to many patients); operations research analysts (use statistical analysis and simulations to solve business problems); personal financial advisors (help people make tax, investment and insurance decisions); physical therapists; physician assistants; and, statisticians. Nothing immediately caught her fancy.

Then she read, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of wind turbine service technicians will increase by over a 100% over the next 10 years. Current median salary is around $49,000 a year. Not bad, but what does this job entail?

Fred Sellers, who manages a GE wind farm outside of Abilene Texas, gives a snapshot of what it’s like to be a ‘wind technician.’ He usually starts his day at 6:30am assigning a number of special projects such as borescope inspections, gearbox and blade repairs, pitch battery change outs, and then executes his rounds climbing the 200-foot 1.5 megawatt GE turbines several times a day both during the extreme heat of the summer and the deep frigidity of the winter. If such industrial gymnastics is appealing, checkout the American Wind Energy Association   http://www.awea.org/Careers/content.aspx?ItemNumber=811 and go to ‘Careers in Wind.’ Climbing 200-foot towers at below zero temperatures to repair a gearbox, however, was not on her wish list.

Next she discovered emerging opportunities to help companies better communicate through their online speech and text messages, ‘chatbots’. Such current dispensers of information as Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa need to become ever more accommodating in the future. Silicon Valley firms will likely be hiring professional writers and comedians to compose witty conversational dialogue to engage callers and elegantly disentangle problems. She is not an entertainer.

Drones are already being used for agriculture, wildlife conservation, and scientific research. Their use, and the attendant piloting skills, will continue to increase in demand. She crashed her toy plane 3 years ago and has been traumatized since. 

She reviewed information on hydroponics and aeroponics that allow for food production in abandoned buildings and roof tops: indoor farming will continue to expand exponentially. Hers, unfortunately, is not the greenest of thumbs.  

Finally, she narrowed her search down to research in biology, but she also likes math, particularly involving probability and statistics (she is an ardent online card player). Becoming a biostatistician is, for now, appealing. This profession will require a master’s and possibly further postsecondary training depending on how she might specialize. The median income is $80,500. Biostatisticians are found in the federal government (particularly in organizations like the NIH and CDC), though they’re also found in finance, insurance, higher education, and consulting services. Work is full time and the projected growth rate within the profession is a sizzling 34% over the next 10 years.

Will all this pan out as planned? Probably not, yet, as President Dwight Eisenhower stated: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Just getting ideas down on paper and figuring out their probability gets the mind moving in a positive direction. The future then becomes a lot more visible, and a lot less scary, when looking beyond the fog of the present.