For decades, the contours of the Capital Region economy seemed etched in stone. Government, manufacturing and construction employed the bulk of the population. After the boom and bust of the past decade, however, the job profile of the future could be almost unrecognizable.
Layoffs erased some of the gains the private sector had on government employment between 1990 and 2000. The government went from 29.4 percent of the economy in 1990 to 26.1 percent in 2000 and inched up to 26.7 percent in 2008, according to the Economic Development Department. Some of that growth came from Indian casino jobs not normally considered government employment, but categorized that way by EDD. All those jobs at Thunder Valley and Red Hawk casinos are counted right along with the Department of Motor Vehicles clerk and fireman paychecks.
“Traditional government-job declines as a percentage of total employment will probably continue into the future,” says Ryan Sharp, director of the Center for Strategic Economic Research, a research firm affiliated with the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization.
After a big increase in 2000, construction jobs are now below 1990 levels, as are goods production and publishing. Only professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care were able to build on their turn-of-the-century increases. “The drivers of the next economic peak will look much different than the last one,” Sharp says.
The roller coaster ride that left the state and the region with double-digit unemployment has educators scrambling to make out a picture of what the in-demand jobs of the future will be and find ways to direct scarce resources to training for those skill sets. Will the careers of the future require white collars, green collars or scrubs?
“Demographics will dictate work force needs,” says David Butler, chief executive of Linking Education and Economic Development. “The needs will be both in new jobs and replacement jobs for retiring workers.”
Butler’s group is focusing on four industry clusters: health care and bioscience, clean technology and infrastructure, public service and education, and technology and entrepreneurism.
“Not only are health care jobs going to make up the vast majority of opportunities, these are high-wage jobs so we need to focus on building on our position as a regional leader,” Butler says.
The state Employment Development Department estimates that by 2016, the Sacramento area will see more than a 20 percent increase in health care workers in addition to a need for 120 replacement jobs. The average hourly wage for these medical jobs is $40.52.
The challenge, Butler says, is steering the funds in the right direction. Millions of dollars in federal stimulus and state work force development funds funnel through several different departments.
“Stimulus funds are not a great deal of money compared to the need,” says Barbara Halsey, California Workforce Investment Board executive director. “But they do give us the resources we need to develop programs.”
The good news, Halsey says, is that nursing and health care initiatives already have developed pathways because of shortages predicted years ago.
By the end of 2008, California was home to 131 public and private registered nursing programs, an increase of 23 in four years, according to a report released by the California Nurse Education Initiative in June. In addition to public higher education, technical schools such as University of Phoenix offer fast-track private nursing programs. The Center for Graduate Studies at Drexel University in Sacramento also offers a program in public health management.
But experts foreshadowed the need for health care long ago because of the tsunami of aging baby boomers. A more recent emerging sector receiving a great deal of media and stimulus attention is clean energy. The Sacramento area led the state in green job growth between 1995 and 2008, according to a Next 10 study released in December.
Sacramento’s 87 percent growth resulted in more than twice the concentration of green jobs in the state for a total of almost 12,250 green jobs. California green jobs grew by 36 percent during that time compared to a 13 percent expansion in jobs in all industries. Even in 2007, when employment fell by 1 percent in the state, green jobs continued to grow by 5 percent, according to the report.
Specifically, the Capital Region led the state with more than 2,000 jobs in solar and geothermal energy generation. Environmental consulting jobs in the area increased at double the state average with 157 percent growth, according to the Next 10 study. Growth occupations include energy auditor, building performance and retrofitting specialist, energy-efficiency manager and building controls systems technician.
“Stimulus funds are not a great deal of money compared to the need.”
Barbara Halsey, executive director, California Workforce Investment Board
Statewide, if Assembly Bill 32, the Greenhouse Gas Emission Initiative, goes full throttle, it could require an additional 132,000 jobs to renovate homes to save 20 percent on energy.
Doug Henton, chief executive of Collaborative Economics who researched the Next 10 study, says emerging green opportunities are not just any paycheck. “They are part of a career progression,” he says. The green track includes entry-level positions, manufacturing, engineering and management jobs.
Noel Perry, founder of Next 10, was careful to put the findings in perspective. Large percentage increases in job growth partially reflect the small number of jobs in place when the study started.
“We can’t solve the current problem with green jobs alone, but they will play a significant role and be as transformational to the economy as IT was over the last 20 years,” he says. Like technology, familiarity with green methods could soon be incorporated into the description of traditional jobs ranging from construction and maintenance to marketing and food service.
A recent study by Valley Vision’s Green Capital Alliance suggests that most providers offer general energy literacy, and Sacramento State and UC Davis offer engineering and research programs for undergraduate and graduate students in clean technology along with internship opportunities. UC Davis also provides training for wind energy technicians and biomass production jobs.
Because the job types are diverse, the level of training also varies. Some, such as HVAC technicians and building operators, could come from industry experience and on the job training or as Rick Wylie, president of Beutler Corp., says, “earn while you learn,” opportunities.
Community colleges and universities can play a major role in creating a path of learning for enhanced skills required to move up the ladder for careers in resource conservation, compliance analysts and project management, Henton says.
The training needs are immense and diverse, says Doug Payne, executive director of Solar Tech, a photovoltaic industry consortium that advocates for work force training.
“It’s not just boots on the roof anymore,” Payne says. “It’s about installing, selling and servicing a complex system.”
Payne had good news about long-term prospects for those contemplating training for a career in alternative energy. “We can’t outsource those jobs,” he says.
Like green skills, which are quickly becoming required items in the tool belt of many traditional industries, multimedia digital art could soon work its way into the job descriptions of many classified ads in the Capital Region.
The California Economic Development Department projects multimedia artists and animators as some of the fastest-growing professions in the Sacramento region. The field could rise 68 percent from an estimated 250 jobs today to 420 jobs by 2016. YouTube already streams 1.2 billion videos a day, and digital communication through Facebook and Twitter by multimedia links is becoming the preferred form of communication in personal and industry interactions.
“Digitalism will have profound consequences on our economic development for good or for bad depending on whether we properly invest in training our students to participate in this new reality,” says William Bronston, a retired doctor and founder of Tower of Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting arts literacy.
His organization, as part of the California Digital Arts Studio Partnership, has hosted eight live Webcast media festivals and partnered with the governor’s office to produce a digital arts resource inventory.
“We need a master plan from kindergarten through college to provide an integrated way of learning to function in the communication revolution,” he says.
About a decade ago, as a financial analyst for Intel, I lived in the suburbs of Santa Clara and frequently traveled to Folsom. It was a good job, especially for a kid straight out of college — decent pay, strong company and the lure of glittering stock options.
So I left.
When Californians went to the polls on Nov. 2, they did more than just select a slate of new Capitol denizens. With the eyes of the world upon them, voters emphatically rejected Proposition 23, the oil industry-backed initiative to block Assembly Bill 32, the state’s groundbreaking effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.