For many young adults entering the workforce and for an increasing number of mid- and long-career professionals looking to migrate to greener pastures, securing a job has not been easy. Facing such daunting economic odds, more and more Americans are turning to higher education as a way to postpone another painful round of rejection from potential employers.
And by doing so these seekers gain skills necessary for excelling in the progressively more competitive 21st century workplace — regardless of the career path they choose.
"We have seen steady growth in all recruitment activity at the bachelor's, master's and PhD level for the last few years," said Kathy Simms, director at the UCLA Career Center. "We know the recession is on the uptick, it is changing now and things are looking very strong in our economy and this is encouraging [for] all of our future graduates."
Like the United States economy, California's labor market registered gains for 2011, with state unemployment falling from 12.4% in 2010 to 11.8% in 2011. But a full recovery is still a ways out, said Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, the chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
"Last year was supposed to be the year in which economic recovery really took root, but instead recovery faltered throughout the year because of numerous unforeseen political, economic and natural events," Kleinhenz said. "If 2012 turns out to be an "uneventful" year, then growth in the economy should accelerate and the unemployment rate will come down to more normal levels within the next couple of years."
Thus making the next few years the perfect time to go back to school. Having an advanced degree will be a major advantage in securing an ideal career path.
"The better paying jobs of 2013 or 2014 almost undoubtedly will require more skills, more technical training and possibly more education than many of the jobs that were lost during the recession, so an individual can definitely hedge his or her bets by building marketable skills through vocational training or additional schooling," said Kleinhenz. "Over the next few years, individuals will really have to be attentive to the industries that are adding jobs and the types of jobs that are available."
And what are those industries?
"Private education jobs grew throughout the recession and the sector is poised for continued growth over the forecast period. A number of local universities have national, if not global, recognition that can play an important role in attracting the region's next generation of highly trained workers," Kleinhenz said. "Most of the job creation in this sector has been happening at the post-secondary level, as local private colleges and universities have added employees."
Kleinhenz also said long-term growth prospects are best for healthcare-related industries, professional and business services and support services.
"Of course, as the economy gathers steam, we'll also see improvements in sectors that serve the local population, including retail and leisure/hospitality. It's important to note that these sectors have already seen job gains, which is a reflection of a better outlook on the part of consumers," he said.
Regardless of the industry, it's important to remain in the mode of being a continual learner once hired. That means taking advantage of any and all opportunities to improve your technical skills by taking classes, getting an advanced degree and attending conferences and seminars. Also, never underestimate the value of networking.