Job openings are in health care, computers and retail

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Nurses, computers scientists and retail sales people are in demand in Colorado.

Those are the top three occupations with the most job listings, according to the Colorado Department of Labor. In Colorado, hospital employment has grown every year for the past 19 years with the most sought employees being registered nurses. And, there does not appear to be a slowdown in sight.

Meanwhile, those who are passionate about creating software, managing information systems and love to keep the hackers away from invading computer systems are among the top recruits from colleges. Computer science and computer and network systems analysts top every major list from fastest growing occupation to best jobs in America, according to the University of Colorado.

As for retail sales jobs, those are also topping the list in Colorado. In all cases, people are turning their attention to these fast growing job sectors seeking schooling or training in hopes of landing those hot jobs, said Sherman Swafford, Pikes Peak Workforce Center business relations and employment development manager.

“I see that in health care, for example, people are willing to go back to school for nursing,” he said.

Nursing

Registered nurses are getting jobs in Colorado. It’s a profession that could stay at the top of the hot jobs list for some time, predicts Nancy Smith, dean of the Beth-El College of Nursing at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

When she analyzes the numbers, it looks like the number of retiring nurses is about to collide with the need for more nurses — 10 percent a year — under the new federal health care reform. For example, Colorado’s 15 community health centers announced this month that it wants to add 5,000 jobs by 2014 when an estimated 540,000 more state residents are expected to be insured as the federal health care reform law kicks in.

The UCCS College of Nursing is trying to keep up. Across the state, all universities and colleges with nursing programs are graduating about 2,000 registered nurses a year, Smith said. UCCS graduates about 150 to 180 nurses with bachelor’s degrees each year.

It’s not even close to being enough, Smith said.

Meanwhile, the most experienced nurses are retiring. There are 56,000 registered nurses in the state and 33 percent of them are over age 55 and expect to retire in the next five to 10 years, she said.

“On top of that, 25 percent of the nursing faculty in the state intends to retire by 2015,” she said.

This year, UCCS launched a three-prong program to try to meet the demand. The university is working with five community colleges in southern Colorado to provide distance learning programs for students in Lamar and La Junta, for example. There is also a push to prepare more nursing faculty and advanced practice nurses.

“We are doing innovative things, in the way people access the education,” Smith said.

UCCS and the community colleges are using a sophisticated teleconference program that allows students in remote areas to see a real-time instructors and patient simulation, to be more interactive, Smith said.

“You need one faculty instead of three and one piece of equipment instead of three,” she said. “It’s great in rural areas, where numbers are not huge.”

Smith expects the program to graduate at least 10 registered nurses and 20 graduate students in rural areas each year for the next three years — double the number of nurses graduating in rural areas.

As nursing continues to top the most help-wanted lists, there is growing interest in nursing degrees, Smith said. Generally there is a waiting list to get into the program. For example, competition for the UCCS nursing accelerated program, designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree, is tough. Last year, more than 100 students applied and 24 made the cut.

But before rushing off to consider a career in the fast-growing job sector, one should question whether they have an aptitude for science and math and maybe consider shadowing a nurse to find out what the job entails before going back to school, Smith said.

“Spend some time with a nurse in a variety of settings to see if what they do is what you think,” Smith said. “What you see on TV is not always true.”

Workforce training

It’s tricky trying to direct job seekers toward any one “hot job” or career, Swafford said. Each month, the workforce center will see between 3,000 and 5,000 clients, with the biggest increase being people with college degrees.

Retails sales jobs are frequently listed by the 950 employers in El Paso and Teller counties who use the workforce center, he said. But often the jobs are part-time, seasonal and do not offer benefits. That makes those jobs, not so hot for some job seekers who have families or are seeking fulltime work, he said.

“There is no definitive answer, which makes this difficult,” he said. “Even if I could say healthcare is the place to go, if you don’t have the skill set, you still have to do the training. In a year, will that still be the hot thing?”

The workforce center, through federal funds, helps some people get workforce training. About 200 to 300 people apply for financial help every month. Only about 10 percent of those will get it, Swafford said. His goal is to help people get into training programs where there is job demand.

“We would look at healthcare, computer training for those who already have a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “The main point is we treat everyone as a job seeker — we are looking at demand, will you be more marketable?”

Computer science in demand

Computer science graduates are in demand. They are receiving more job offers than any other job field, according to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. A survey of more than 50,000 college students, found that more than 56 percent of computer science majors who have applied for a job have received an offer, making it the major with the highest offer rate from the class of 2011.

The word is out locally that computer science jobs are in demand, said Bruce Harmon, dean of the engineering and computer science at Colorado Technical University.

For the past three years, he has seen double digit enrollment increases in computer science and computer information technology programs and courses at CTU. Cyber security is a growing area that needs employees, he said.

“Security is on steroids — not only to make sure bank transactions are secure but whole nations who are secure from people who want to break into the defense infrastructure,” Harmon said. “Our community is particularly well poised to accept new jobs in cyber security.”

The majority of CTU students studying computer science and information technology are those with a degree, looking to transition into a career that is more in demand, Harmon said.

“The ones interested in computer science are coming with technical degrees, from engineering or physics — some kind of scientific field,” he said. “IA (information assurance) people are also come from technical degrees, but also MBAs, they are people who at least have some skill in quantitative things.”

The key to survival in the computer science job market is keeping up with the computing changes, Harmon said. For example, the federal government announced this summer that it would close 800 data centers across the country.

“In the same breath of making those cuts, they announced they would be going to cloud computing,” Harmon said.

And that, he said, equates to the need for more cyber security professionals.

What they pay:

Registered nurses

Entry level wage, $44,938.

Average annual wage, $58,974

Retail salesperson

Entry level wage, $16,311. Average annual wage, $25,527

Computer software engineer

Entry level wage $62,295.

Average annual wage, $89,830

Source: Colorado Workforce Center