Dave Sload was recently surprised to see a “help wanted” sign at a drive-thru.
“But I really shouldn’t have been,” says Sload, chair of the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board.
“The forecast for 2021 is that there’s probably somewhere around 30,000 to 32,000 (new) jobs within the county area,” he says.
A significant chunk will be lower-paying positions in the food service sector, he says. Hiring should also be strong for jobs like freight and material movers with salaries of about $15 to $16 per hour, he says.
Underemployment is a bigger challenge than unemployment in Lancaster County, Sload says.
“We have a pool of people who are undertrained,” he says. “Employers have to be willing to take people with less experience and to be part of that career training path. If we can get them trained we can get them into higher paying jobs.”
That’s particularly true in construction – a high-demand field with industry veterans aging out, says Sload, who is also CEO of the Keystone Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. Employers often ask him for hiring leads with experience.
“I tell them, if someone with construction experience isn’t working right now then there are other questions that you need to ask,” he says.
In terms of percentage growth – wind turbine service technician is the fastest-growing job in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 7,000 people held that job in 2019 with a median salary of $52,910. Another 4,300 people are expected to join them by 2029, per BLS.
Don’t bank on oodles of those openings in Lancaster County. There are turbines like the pair at Turkey Point near Columbia, but large farms are clustered in windier counties.
Eight wind plant technicians (plus a professional administrator and plant manager, Lee Van Horn) make up the on-site crew for the 64 turbines at two Locust Ridge Wind Farms in Schuylkill County – some visible from I-81.
Those techs do daily tasks. Van Horn says specialized national companies, which employ hundreds of workers willing to travel the country, come in for larger jobs.
Locust Ridge is in the Orange, Conn.-based Avangrid Renewables network, which includes about 70 farms across the country plus new ones being built in New York, South Dakota and New Mexico and plans for more off the coast of Massachusetts.
“We have a pretty diverse set of career backgrounds in our technicians – manufacturing, electrical, construction, veterans – but if you like heights and working with your hands every day, it’s a great career,” Van Horn says.
Nationally, the fastest-growing jobs behind wind turbine technicians are nurse practitioners, solar photovoltaic installers, occupational therapy assistants, statisticians, home health and personal care aides, physical therapist assistants, medical and health service managers, physician assistants and information security analysts, according to BLS.
In Pennsylvania, bailiff was the fastest-growing job in 2018 and 2019, according to SmartAsset, a financial technology company that crunches state-by-state numbers each year.
Roughly 243% job growth still took the bailiff total to just around 700.
SmartAsset’s latest list, released in November, says post-secondary health specialties teachers have the fastest-growing job in Pennsylvania – with 15,130 in 2019 compared to 6,100 in 2015. This includes teachers in fields like dentistry, laboratory technology, medicine, pharmacy, public health, therapy and veterinary medicine.
It’s job growth fueled by job growth.
While some institutions struggled with fall enrollment, it was up at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in Lancaster, says Jean Hershey, associate vice president of academic affairs. That’s partly because people know health-related jobs – including nursing – are in high demand, Hershey says. Yet there’s more to it, she says.
“Nurses have obviously been stretched to the nth degree …. They’re working long hours in difficult situations,” she says. “But it’s just such a passion and such a calling. We are seeing the general public saying I want to be part of this solution. I want to be someone who can alleviate some of the suffering.”
Hershey says the college has seen increased interest in training for jobs like respiratory therapist.
“It’s the sort of career that some people never knew existed before COVID,” she says. “Now people know what it is and its importance.”