The economy is good, and unemployment is on the decline in the Volusia County region. But what does that mean for continuing prospects for those already employed and career potential for the region’s graduating students?
Nationally recognized economist and Director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, Dr. Sean Snaith says that in today’s economy, “‘job security’ is a bit of an anacronysm. This is not our grandparents’ economy where you get out of high school or college and you go to work for the same company for your entire career and retire with full benefits, a pension, and a gold watch. It’s very likely that people that are entering the workforce today are going to have to have multiple careers, potentially changing fields altogether at some point in their life which will necessitate ‘upgrading their software,’ if you will, for the new position.” Nowadays, many new and seasoned job seekers are looking for high potential careers—available jobs that provide desirable compensation with room to grow.
As a general rule, higher-paying careers usually require higher levels of education or more skilled training. But knowing where the job demand will be requires tracking the trends, work done by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting, which is also directed by Snaith. Much of the job growth in the state and region follow megatrends that began in the middle of the last century, according to Snaith. He reminds us that “the US economy continues to evolve from a manufacturing-centric economy in the 40s-50s to a more service-based economy, and [this region’s] professional and business services growth is a part of that larger trend and nature of the U.S. economy.” The solid growth in the professional and business services sector—a projected average of 1.8% annually—yields promising potential for upward mobility, as well as an average annual salary beginning at $58k, making it a high potential market for career seekers. Snaith adds that similarly-skilled careers in technology, such as software or application development (average pay range $78k-$103k), are also expected to grow with this sector.
The remainder of the region’s job growth hinges on a more localized trend that Florida fortunately exemplifies: population growth. According to data compiled in the Institute for Economic Competitiveness’ 2019-2022 Florida & Metro Forecast from, Florida is the top state for number of “out-of-state-movers” in the country. By 2022, its population is expected to rise by almost a million to exceed 22 million, thanks in part to temporary tax provisions that encourage taxpayers to make Florida their home. The report projects that Volusia will have gained over 85 thousand additional residents between 2014-2022.
According to the forecast, the industry that will see the most job growth is construction and mining. “Construction tends to be an industry fueled by growth,” Snaith explains, and this particular industry’s growth is somewhat circular. With Florida’s tourism on the rise, the infrastructure required to serve those tourists requires labor to build, and laborers need infrastructure to live and work here. While much of that unskilled labor is lower on the pay scale (averaging $41k annually) than other high potential jobs discussed here, the report predicts this industry will grow 2.9% on average each year.
Another promising high potential area is the healthcare industry. Snaith says that these skilled, higher paying positions spanning from doctors to administrators cover a demand that’s not going away. “If you look at the labor market today for registered nurses,” he says, for example, “the number of unfilled positions is in the thousands just in Volusia County. You multiply that across the state, and much of the nation as the population ages, and I think that’s a career that if you want to stay in it, this could be one of the exceptions. You’ll likely have a job for life in that field.” The average salary for RNs in Florida is $58k. He adds that those in business administration in other industries who are looking for more opportunity might consider taking their administrative skills to the business side of patient care. The numbers verify his claim. Two of the top three employers in the area are AdventHealth and Halifax Health, that together employ almost ten thousand residents.
And as the labor force grows, so does the need for teachers. The top employer of the area, Volusia County Schools, which employs almost 7,500, represents another high potential career field for a growing population. Snaith observes that “working-age people in the prime working years generally correlates with the prime years for marriage and fertility,” which means more kids going to school. While teacher salaries are notoriously low nationwide (averaging $45k annually), those with graduate degrees earn more, and there’s further hope on the horizon. According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, The Florida Council of 100, a local non-profit group, has proposed a 20-year-plan that increases top teacher salaries and assists with teacher education.
Snaith predicts that the area’s population growth, and therefore the economic and job growth, will continue for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, the Volusia region is amply equipped to train and educate high potential career seekers through the myriad programs offered by local institutions, which offer the four-year degrees as well as the certification programs and apprenticeships that prepare anyone seeking a high potential career to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in this region and beyond.