Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Outlook for Wind Turbine Technicians

Green careers are attracting a lot of interest, but it can be difficult to find reliable figures for projected growth and even current employment. Here is an update about wind service technicians, based on the best figures I was able to find.

Back in 2009, I researched several green occupations, including this one, for a special supplement to the Occupational Outlook Handbook that I was preparing for the publisher JIST Works. At that time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics was not providing any figures for this occupation—neither for current nor projected employment. So I had to make my own calculations from data I found in government and industry sources.

The BLS now does report employment figures for wind service technicians. Last December, for example, the BLS released an estimate that 3,200 people were employed in the occupation in 2012 and that 4,000 will be in 2022, an increase of 24 percent. The BLS also estimated 800 job openings per year.

To try to get a sense of the current level of employment, I looked at the estimates of the Wind Energy Foundation. Understand that this organization exists to promote wind power, but we can avoid most possibility of boosterism if we focus on the current state of the industry rather than on projections of the future. The Wind Energy Foundation estimates total U.S. utility-scale wind-power capacity, in the second quarter of 2014, at just under 62,000 megawatts. If we assume that average turbine capacity is 2 megawatts (a fairly conservative figure) and that one operations and maintenance worker is needed for each 7 turbines (which was the ratio when I first researched this occupation), the number of these workers should be about 4,200. If we assume average turbine capacity of 3 megawatts, this still accounts for 2,950 workers.

These two estimates of workforce size bracket the 2012 estimate made by BLS, but it seems reasonable to expect that the occupation would have grown considerably in the past two years. Note that these figures apply only to operations and maintenance workers. Many other wind turbine technicians surely are engaged in constructing new capacity. In fact, again according to the Wind Energy Association, 14,000 megawatts of wind power capacity was under construction during the first half of 2014. So the occupation probably has expanded on roughly the scale projected by the BLS.

The wild card in projections for wind power capacity—and, therefore, employment of technicians—is whether or not this country will invest heavily in offshore installations. The most reliable winds are found there, and some industry observers believe that this coming year will see the beginnings of offshore wind-power projects, despite their high cost relative to dry-land installations.

One advantage that wind turbine technicians enjoy in the job market is that often they face little competition. This is partly because the technology is new and expanding rapidly, so not many trained workers are entering the job market compared to the demand for their services. But another reason is that many people do not like working at great heights and in confined spaces.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Am I Using a Credential Fraudulently?

You may notice the “PhD” following my name on some of my book covers. I do hold a doctor of philosophy degree (earned, not honorary), but my use of these letters brings up an interesting question of when it is—and is not—appropriate to use work-related credentials. This issue is particularly timely because so many people are now working (or seek work) in fields that they did not prepare for formally.

What raised this issue for me was a question in “The Ethicist” column of last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The query, posed by someone whose name was withheld, was this: “A Pilates-certification-program teacher uses the credentials ‘Ph.D.’ after her name in connection with the course description on the studio’s website. However, her degree is in finance, which is never mentioned on the site. Is this acceptable?” The core of the answer from columnist Chuck Klosterman was, “Anyone who includes an academic designation alongside the description of a class she’s teaching is implying that these things have a material connection. She is actively trying to make people misinterpret what she has to offer.”

I admire Chuck Klosterman for his often subtle parsings of ethical issues, and I believe he was correct in making this judgment. So after reading this column, I had to ask myself whether I am using my PhD credential ethically. And as I thought about how to answer this question, I realized that many people deal with a similar issue. Because of my interest in careers, I often ask people how they got into the line of work they presently are doing, and a great many of them describe a crooked career path that did not include the “appropriate” academic training.

As for me, it’s true that I am not teaching Pilates or any other course, but it could still be argued that my use of “PhD” on my books implies what Klosterman calls “a material connection” between my education and the contents of my books. And the fact is that although my books are about careers, none of my degrees is in economics, counseling, psychology, or education. My degrees are all in English literature. (In case you’re curious, my specialization was pre-Shakespearean drama, and my dissertation was about morality plays.) But the particular focus of my academic work, literature, doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that in preparing for and writing my dissertation, I learned how to do research and write about it, and these skills do have a material connection to the work I do now.

You might argue that research and writing skills are necessary but not sufficient qualifications to write about careers; the writer should also be well-informed about career development issues. I often joke that getting a degree in English guarantees that you’ll become informed about career development issues, and in my case there was some truth to this statement. Not long after I got my degree, it became obvious that I was not going to find a permanent job teaching at a university, so I had to decide what else I was going to do with my life. I read What Color Is Your Parachute? and did all the exercises. From my self-assessment, I realized that teaching was not what I liked or was especially good at; instead it was researching and writing, as I had done for my dissertation. The first opportunity that came my way for a job involving these tasks was developing career information for Educational Testing Service. This job led to a 19-year stint. During that time, I engaged in what amounted to an apprenticeship in career development theory, with Martin R. Katz as my mentor. In that setting, the world’s biggest testing organization, it was also inevitable that I would learn a lot about assessment. At Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), I took three graduate courses from the counseling master’s program: an introduction to counseling and two educational statistics courses.

Therefore, the credentials I bring to my work are a combination of formal education (mostly the PhD) and on-the-job training (my apprenticeship at ETS), and I try to mention both of these elements on my book covers: The “PhD” appears on the front cover after my name, and on the back cover is a statement that I have been working in the field of career information for more than 30 years.

Many people, like me, are working in fields where their credentials consist, at least in part, of informal on-the-job learning. But most people present their credentials to the world mostly through a business card, which does not accommodate as much text as the back cover of a book. People who work in fields where certification is available as a credential have the chance to put certain relevant initials after their name on the card, but this is not an option in most fields.

If you are working in a field where you do not have formal credentials—perhaps because they do not exist—I would advise you to be hesitant about putting a degree after your name. But I would give you a lot of leeway for arguing (as I do here) that your degree really is relevant to your qualifications.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome Your New Teammate: A Robot

Everybody knows that the ability to work well collaboratively is growing in importance. Teamwork involves several specific skills, such as communication, negotiation, learning, and comfort with diversity. But a new kind of collaboration is happening in many workplaces: not between one person and another person, but between one human and one machine. And that requires a slightly different set of collaborative skills.

Robots have been used in manufacturing for some time now. General Motors used its first robot in 1961, at a plant in Ewing, New Jersey, a location I routinely drive past on the way to my local library. (It’s now a level brownfield.) That robot weighed 4,000 pounds and was used to weld and move parts weighing as much as 500 pounds. The brute strength and speed that such robots brought to the workplace made them dangerous to work alongside. For the sake of safety, they were segregated in enclosures and other closed workspaces. They also have been used in conditions that are hostile to humans, such as the chambers where paint is sprayed on automobile bodies.

This practice is starting to change as a new generation of slower and more lightweight robots is being rolled out. For example, at the Spartanburg BMW plant, a Danish-made robot rolls a layer of protective foil over the electronics in car doors, a task that would cause repetitive-strain injury if done by humans. This is something that more old-fashioned robots could do, but that would mean isolating the car for a task that is better done alongside tasks that humans are doing. Over the next couple of years, the BMW plant’s engineers intend to configure robots to hand tools and parts to human workers.

One manufacturer has added fake eyes to the “head” of its robot so the robot can signal by a simulated facial expression where it is going to move next. Robots are also being designed to react to contact with humans. Most simply, this means the robot pulls back when it meets resistance. More sophisticated robots are designed so a human can move the robotic arm through a sequence of operations and the robot will then be able to repeat the sequence. This makes it unnecessary to pay a highly skilled programmer each time the robot needs to be configured perform a new task, and that means that robots can be used for small-batch manufacturing, where the tasks are constantly changing.

As robots gain improved capabilities, their presence in the workforce keeps growing. The International Federation of Robotics reports that 26,269 industrial robots were sold in North America in 2012, and the Federation projects that sales will exceed 31,000 by 2016.

So what skills will be necessary for human-robot teamwork? As robots become more reliable, mechanical skill will diminish in importance. And as robots gain sophisticated ways to receive instructions, the traditional collaborative skill of communication will become more important. Human workers will need to remember to keep their robotic teammates in the loop whenever the work routine changes, even slightly. With voice-activated robots, humans will need to learn the particular commands that the robot can respond to.

But the most important skill humans can bring to the collaboration is the uniquely human ability to be creative. The most successful human co-workers will be those who are constantly finding original ways to improve productivity and the quality of output. Of course, this is nothing new. It was true even before the industrial age. However, as robots become increasingly capable of mastering skills such as attention to detail, learning, and flexibility, the jobs where workers can collaborate with them—rather than be replaced by them—will be the jobs that require a high level of skill at creative problem solving.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Best Jobs for Your Personality

Among the books I’ve written, one of the best-sellers is 50 Best Jobs for Your Personality, now in its third edition. For this blog, I thought it would be useful to update the lists in the book to reflect more recent occupational information from the Department of Labor.

Note that the following set of lists does not replace the book, because it covers only the top 20 occupations for each personality type, it offers only 6 lists (as opposed to the 131 lists in the book), and it is not accompanied by occupational descriptions. It also lacks an explanation and quick assessment of RIASEC types for those unfamiliar with this approach to career development.

I constructed these six lists using the same approach I used in the book, and I suggest you consult the introduction to that book for a full explanation. However, in brief, what I did here was to sort the occupations three times: on annual earnings, on projected growth, and on projected annual openings. Each time, I ranked the occupations, and then I summed the rankings to determine the best occupations on all three measures combined. The set of occupations excludes (a) any for which annual earnings data is not available and (b) any with both negative growth and fewer than 500 projected openings per year. Because of the small size of the pool of occupations with Artistic as their primary RIASEC code, I augmented this pool with occupations that have Artistic as their secondary code.

Everyone seems to love lists, so I hope you find these interesting.

Realistic


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Civil Engineers
 $80,770
19.7%
 12,010
RIC
2.
Electricians
 $50,510
19.7%
 22,460
RCI
3.
Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
 $50,180
21.3%
 13,050
RC
4.
Radiologic Technologists
 $55,200
20.8%
 6,960
RS
5.
Computer User Support Specialists
 $46,620
20.2%
 19,690
RCI
6.
Industrial Machinery Mechanics
 $47,910
18.9%
 15,250
RIC
7.
Carpenters
 $40,500
24.2%
 32,920
RCI
8.
Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers
 $43,880
20.9%
 12,370
RC
9.
Brickmasons and Blockmasons
 $46,610
35.5%
 3,280
RCI
10.
Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
 $42,540
18.9%
 14,440
RCI
11.
Surgical Technologists
 $42,720
29.8%
 3,910
RSC
12.
Medical Equipment Repairers
 $44,180
30.3%
 2,460
RIC
13.
Structural Iron and Steel Workers
 $46,520
21.8%
 3,150
RCI
14.
Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining
 $42,790
20.9%
 3,640
RCI
15.
Captains, Mates, and Pilots of Water Vessels
 $69,920
13.8%
 2,130
REC
16.
Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers
 $64,170
8.9%
 4,990
RIC
17.
Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other
 $40,900
26.7%
 3,310
RCI
18.
Construction and Building Inspectors
 $54,450
12.2%
 3,670
RCI
19.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
 $66,050
23.6%
 1,130
RCS
20.
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers
 $36,130
29.1%
 5,720
RE

Investigative


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
 $187,999+
18.7%
 15,260
ISR
2.
Surgeons
 $187,999+
23.2%
 2,310
IRS
3.
Software Developers, Applications
 $92,660
22.8%
 21,850
IRC
4.
Software Developers, Systems Software
 $101,410
20.4%
 13,470
ICR
5.
Dentists, General
 $146,340
16.3%
 5,120
IRS
6.
Anesthesiologists
 $187,999+
24.4%
 1,670
IRS
7.
Petroleum Engineers
 $132,320
25.5%
 1,960
IRC
8.
Computer Systems Analysts
 $81,190
24.5%
 20,960
IC
9.
Pharmacists
 $119,280
14.5%
 10,980
ICS
10.
Family and General Practitioners
 $176,530
14.6%
 4,920
IS
11.
Nurse Anesthetists
 $151,090
24.9%
 1,560
IRS
12.
Management Analysts
 $79,870
18.6%
 24,520
IEC
13.
Optometrists
 $101,290
24.4%
 1,770
ISR
14.
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists
 $60,800
31.6%
 18,850
IEC
15.
Operations Research Analysts
 $74,630
26.7%
 3,600
ICE
16.
Internists, General
 $186,850
14.1%
 2,010
ISR
17.
Pediatricians, General
 $157,610
15.7%
 1,410
IS
18.
Psychiatrists
 $178,950
16.2%
 1,120
ISA
19.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
 $66,410
46.0%
 3,530
ISR
20.
Biomedical Engineers
 $88,670
26.6%
 1,010
IR

Artistic


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Architects, Except Landscape and Naval
 $74,110
17.3%
 4,410
AI
2.
Training and Development Specialists
 $56,850
15.5%
 7,720
SAC
3.
Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary
 $62,830
16.0%
 3,550
SA
4.
Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists
 $79,840
13.3%
 3,550
IAR
5.
Biochemists and Biophysicists
 $84,320
18.6%
 1,370
IAR
6.
Technical Writers
 $67,900
14.8%
 2,260
AIC
7.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
 $98,700
12.9%
 2,130
EA
8.
Philosophy and Religion Teachers, Postsecondary
 $65,540
19.3%
 1,060
SAI
9.
Education Teachers, Postsecondary
 $60,170
14.6%
 2,350
SAI
10.
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education
 $53,590
12.3%
 46,740
SAC
11.
Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
 $53,940
12.4%
 21,120
SA
12.
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
 $38,620
31.4%
 4,720
SAI
13.
Interpreters and Translators
 $42,420
46.1%
 3,810
AS
14.
Political Scientists
 $100,920
21.3%
 250
IAS
15.
Kindergarten Teachers, Except Special Education
 $50,230
13.0%
 6,510
SA
16.
Public Relations Specialists
 $54,940
12.0%
 5,880
EAS
17.
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education
 $55,360
5.5%
 31,260
SAE
18.
English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary
 $60,920
12.2%
 2,360
SAI
19.
Foreign Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary
 $58,620
15.3%
 1,080
SAI
20.
Preschool Teachers, Except Special Education
 $27,570
17.4%
 19,940
SA

Social


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Physical Therapists
 $81,030
36.0%
 12,370
SIR
2.
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary
 $85,030
36.1%
 9,720
SI
3.
Physician Assistants
 $92,970
38.4%
 4,890
SIR
4.
Nurse Practitioners
 $92,670
33.7%
 5,850
SIR
5.
Dental Hygienists
 $71,110
33.3%
 11,350
SRC
6.
Registered Nurses
 $66,220
19.4%
 105,260
SI
7.
Occupational Therapists
 $76,940
29.0%
 4,820
SI
8.
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
 $65,940
35.4%
 3,420
SI
9.
Speech-Language Pathologists
 $70,810
19.4%
 4,620
SIA
10.
Physical Therapist Assistants
 $53,360
41.0%
 4,510
SRI
11.
Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary
 $75,740
19.5%
 2,120
SI
12.
Healthcare Social Workers
 $50,820
26.8%
 7,020
SI
13.
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
 $41,920
24.8%
 36,310
SR
14.
Personal Care Aides
 $20,100
48.8%
 66,600
SRC
15.
Radiation Therapists
 $79,140
23.5%
 840
SRC
16.
Home Health Aides
 $21,020
48.5%
 59,070
SR
17.
Business Teachers, Postsecondary
 $75,120
14.7%
 3,070
SEI
18.
Occupational Therapy Assistants
 $55,270
42.6%
 2,050
SR
19.
Training and Development Specialists
 $56,850
15.5%
 7,720
SAC
20.
Nurse Midwives
 $92,290
28.6%
 290
SI

Enterprising


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
 $123,950
15.3%
 9,710
ECI
2.
General and Operations Managers
 $96,430
12.4%
 61,310
ECS
3.
Medical and Health Services Managers
 $90,940
23.2%
 14,990
ECS
4.
Construction Managers
 $84,410
16.1%
 15,460
ERC
5.
Lawyers
 $114,300
9.8%
 19,650
EI
6.
Personal Financial Advisors
 $75,320
27.0%
 9,640
ECS
7.
First-Line Supervisors of Construction Trades and Extraction Workers
 $60,380
23.5%
 18,710
ERC
8.
Marketing Managers
 $123,220
12.7%
 6,170
EC
9.
Financial Managers
 $112,700
8.9%
 14,690
EC
10.
Education Administrators, Postsecondary
 $87,410
14.5%
 6,650
ECS
11.
Sales Representatives, Services, All Other
 $51,030
15.7%
 30,200
EC
12.
Human Resources Managers
 $100,800
13.2%
 4,060
ESC
13.
Computer Network Architects
 $95,380
14.6%
 4,350
ERC
14.
Sales Managers
 $108,540
8.3%
 10,690
EC
15.
Administrative Services Managers
 $82,310
12.2%
 7,990
EC
16.
Managers, All Other
 $103,530
5.9%
 24,910
EC
17.
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents
 $72,640
11.2%
 12,260
EC
18.
First-Line Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers
 $50,190
12.1%
 50,800
ECS
19.
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products
 $74,520
9.7%
 11,180
EC
20.
Social and Community Service Managers
 $61,160
20.8%
 5,510
ES

Conventional


Occupation
Annual Earnings
Projected Growth
Projected Annual Openings
RIASEC Code(s)
1.
Accountants and Auditors
 $65,080
13.1%
 54,420
CEI
2.
Cost Estimators
 $59,460
26.2%
 11,800
CE
3.
Financial Analysts
 $78,380
15.5%
 10,090
CIE
4.
Information Security Analysts
 $88,590
36.5%
 3,920
CIR
5.
Logisticians
 $73,400
21.9%
 4,220
CEI
6.
Web Developers
 $63,160
20.1%
 5,070
CIR
7.
Database Administrators
 $78,520
15.1%
 4,030
CI
8.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
 $47,570
16.7%
 9,120
CIE
9.
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products
 $54,410
8.9%
 42,070
CE
10.
Medical Secretaries
 $31,890
36.0%
 25,250
CS
11.
Statisticians
 $79,290
26.7%
 1,610
CI
12.
Dental Assistants
 $34,900
24.5%
 13,720
CRS
13.
Medical Assistants
 $29,610
29.0%
 26,990
CSR
14.
Actuaries
 $94,340
26.1%
 1,320
CIE
15.
Billing and Posting Clerks
 $33,820
18.1%
 18,780
CE
16.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
 $34,970
22.1%
 9,040
CE
17.
Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
 $35,730
11.4%
 37,000
CE
18.
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants, Except Legal, Medical, and Executive
 $32,840
13.2%
 58,760
CE
19.
Loan Officers
 $61,420
7.7%
 7,720
CES
20.
Social and Human Service Assistants
 $29,230
21.8%
 17,870
CSE