Despite reported economic slowdown, good jobs exist in Minnesotaby Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio
Finding a job that pays well and offers job security isn't easy in an era of rightsizing, downsizing and outsourcing. Education, skills and experience matter more than ever before in landing a good job.
St. Paul, Minn. — During the dot-com boom of the late '90s, I.T. was the place to be. Information technology jobs and wages were on the rise. Then came the dot-com bust, the 2001 recession and offshore outsourcing. Jobs and wages fell for a time.
But Ralph Jenson, vice president of network operations for Minneapolis-based Swarmcast, says the times are good again.
"The market today seems to be getting a lot better, with just having jobs available again," said Jenson, whose company specializes in high-quality video on the Internet. "People are willing to pay enough money to get good people on board. But they are having a hard time finding those people."
Over his three decades in the I.T. industry, Jensen has had about 10 jobs, including stints at Honeywell and Cray Research, and some lean times as an independent consultant. Jenson has also seen the hourly pay of peers fall from as much as $150 to as little as $25.
But Jenson says wages have been rising. And he's bullish now about the job market.
"We're just having a hard time finding talented, motivated individuals. I think if you're talented and motivated, it's a great field to be in," Jenson said.
Jenson is in one of the fields that state labor experts forecast to provide Minnesota with a growing number of jobs that pay more than average.
Minnesota will likely need about 8,000 more software engineers by 2014. And those jobs now pay a median salary of nearly $80,000.
State labor market expert Steven Hine says job growth should be especially robust in the information technology and health sectors.
"Overall, those two areas are projected to grow at slightly over 30 percent between 2004 and 2014," said Hine.
Both sectors also offer many jobs that pay well above the state median annual salary of $37,600. At hospitals, like Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, registered nurses are in demand now and as far as the eye can see.
RNs now earn a median salary of nearly $67,000 in Minnesota, and officials project the state will have some 14,000 job openings for RNs by 2014.
The demand for nurses, either with a two- or four-year degree is no secret.
The nursing programs run by MnSCU -- the Minnesota State College and Universities System -- are extremely popular. MnSCU's Mary Rothchild says there's often a waiting list to get into a program.
"Students are really interested in that high-paced, well-paid environment," Rothchild said. "The average wage coming out after two years being $23, $24 an hour is just really attractive for a lot of students."
The field is drawing people who already have four-year degrees from prestigious schools.
Shiori Konda, who graduated from Macalester College with a degree in sociology, went back to school to be a nurse after a few years in the mental health field.
"Compared to what I was getting after my bachelor's degree, the first-year nurses get much more than I was getting," Konda said. "It's definitely a good field to get in and you feel you work hard and you will be compensated for what you do."
There are many good-paying jobs beyond the health care and I.T. fields. State officials forecast growing opportunities in fields such as engineering, architecture, and accounting, and specialized manufacturing, requiring advanced technical skills.
"The market is clear," said economist Art Rolnick with the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. "The market wants well-trained, educated workers and it'll pay for them."
Legal services is another projected growth field. Firms like Maplewood-based 3M need paralegals.
Jessica Sebeck Lugo landed at 3M a month after getting her paralegal certificate. After getting a degree in comparative literature, she looked for training that would lead to a paycheck.
"I knew I would have a good job waiting for me afterwards," she said. "When you do research before going to school, you see what the job placement rates are for different programs and paralegal certificate programs have pretty good job placement and job opportunities."
Indeed, Minnesota will need about 25 percent more paralegals by 2014. And the median annual pay for paralegals is now about $50,000.