Each fall, social media is filled with pictures of elementary, middle and high school students on their first day back to school. In recent years, a growing trend has included a “what I want to be when I grow up” sign in the photographs. This year alone, I’ve seen career goals including professional athlete, rock star, doctor, lawyer, firefighter, teacher, a few princesses and even a mermaid. Over time, many of these career goals will change, but do our children really understand the vast number of career opportunities that exist and which fields are in the highest demand?
In 2005, Gallup conducted a youth survey for teenagers between 13 and 17 asking them to name their top three career options. The top 10 results were:
- Teacher – Eight percent
- Doctor – Eight percent
- Lawyer – Seven percent
- Sports Job – Five percent
- Science/biology – Five percent
- Architecture – Five percent
- Business – Four percent
- Military – Four percent
- Engineer – Four percent
- Nurse – Three percent
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top projected annual employment rates of change by major industry sector between 2012 and 2022 will be in healthcare/social assistance and construction, both projecting a growth of 2.6 percent, adding five million jobs. Further, of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage of increase during this same period, 14 are related to healthcare with 28.1 percent of the overall growth in healthcare support occupations, 21.5 percent in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations and 20.9 percent in personal care and service occupations.
With this increase in demand, we know that these students seeking careers as a doctor, nurse or in the science/biology field are on the right track, but what happens when four to 10 years or more of education isn’t an option for the student who needs to get into the work force quickly or who doesn’t find these programs to be a good fit? There are an abundance of opportunities in healthcare that may still be good options if the students know they exist.
Only one-third of Kentuckians ages 25 to 34 have a post-secondary credential, yet skilled jobs across the Commonwealth remain unfilled despite higher state unemployment rates than the national average. Kentucky’s career colleges are playing a vital role in filling this skills gap through flexible scheduling, career-focused programs, online options and program availability. These schools are providing students job specific education in high-demand fields, preparing them to move immediately into the workforce upon graduation.
Our schools focus on a short-term, hands-on, intensive training approach to education that allows students to be quickly and thoroughly prepared for entry-level positions without the traditional long-term program lengths. With programs offered in fields such as medical assisting, phlebotomy, radiography, laboratory sciences, medical coding, healthcare reimbursement, patient care, respiratory therapy, surgical technology, EMT, physician assistant and more, students can complete some programs in as little as nine months to two years, depending on the program and schedule.
Filling a Gap
Career colleges fill a gap in Kentucky’s postsecondary training with a focus on skills that will make students productive members of a more competitive workforce. They work closely with industry employers to build a stronger workforce. Practitioners serve on advisory boards developing and seeking continuous improvement in course curriculum and faculty members often work full time in the fields for which they teach and are required to pursue continuing education coursework each year.
According to 2012-2013 data, Kentucky’s private sector colleges and universities educated nine percent of the total higher education enrollment in the Commonwealth and conferred awards for 19 percent of all graduates in health professions and related programs.
Career opportunities are available in high demand fields, and numerous education opportunities exist to fit the needs of adult learners. With an aging population and increased demand in the area of healthcare, we cannot afford to see these occupations go unfilled, therefore, educating about the variety of healthcare opportunities is now more important than ever before.
I want to be a…
Medical Assistant: An allied health professional that supports the work of physicians and other health professionals, usually in a clinic setting.
Phlebotomist: A nurse or other health worker trained in drawing venous blood for testing or donation.
Radiographer: A technician trained to position patients and take radiographs or perform other radiodiagnostic procedures.
Medical Coder: A person who assigns numeric codes to represent diagnoses and procedures, describe patient treatment and delineate fees for health services.
Surgical Technologist: A scrub, also called a scrub tech, surgical technician or operating room technician, is an allied health professional working as a part of the team delivering surgical care.
– Candace Bensel is the executive director for the Kentucky Association of Career Colleges & Schools.
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