STEM careers abound

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On Friday, January 18th at 11:45, the Central Library is pleased to host Where the Jobs Are, in conjunction with the Career Development Association of Alberta. Join Dan Kostka, contributor to Choices Explorer, as he highlights jobs experiencing growth and demand, and discusses some common features of those who've discovered and embraced a good career fit. We chatted with Dan to discuss his perspective:

Dan, you have profiled hundreds of careers for Bridges.com, the company that provides the Calgary Public Library and high schools with the popular career database, Choices Explorer. This company has always excelled at highlighting new and emerging occupations within Canada. What, in your opinion, are some of the careers currently experiencing the biggest demand?

Two broad areas that come immediately to mind are health care and technology. When it comes to health care, it's not just doctors and nurses that are in demand. There are many other positions that require less education, such as personal care aides and medical imaging technicians. These careers are also experiencing large shortages but don't receive as much attention. Many young people aren't even aware that these positions exist, and some require a certificate that can take less than a year to complete.

When I say technology, this applies to the health care field, of course, but also to any career that requires a solid grounding in the sciences. Every time I profile a technology-related career, the people I interview emphasize that in North America we're simply not producing enough graduates in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math. It's simply amazing the number of doors that are open to someone with a solid grounding in the sciences. As with the health care field, technology careers don't necessarily require many years of training. For example, machinists are in great demand and in less than one year a person can get the necessary qualifications for many such positions.

What are some of the key economic and social indicators fueling this growth?

A big factor behind demand in many industries is the aging population. This affects an industry such as the health care field in two ways. First, the number of clients/patients is greatly expanding. Secondly, the practitioners themselves are aging and not enough young practitioners are entering the field to replace them all. This is also true for technology-related careers such as engineering. I recently interviewed a petroleum engineer who said it's common to refer to "The Great Crew Change" in regard to the number of senior workers in that industry who will soon be retiring.

Recent statistics point to the fact that Canadians now have an average of 8 careers in their lifetime. Do you find that people are more willing to take risks and try something new?

I think people's expectations are evolving. Young people no longer expect to stay with the same company for their entire career, or to have just one career. People in mid-career are also more likely to make a change or to have another career on the side. For example, I recently interviewed an energy trader who had a home staging business on the side. The energy trading gave her a good income, while the home staging was an outlet for her creativity (and potentially something that could evolve into a full-time source of income). I think we all want stability in our lives, but how we view it (and how to obtain it) is evolving. In the past, stability meant loyalty to a large organization that would be loyal to us and reward us in return. Now, stability is achieved by keeping our skills current, by having a large personal network, and perhaps by having more than one source of income. Achieving stability in this way requires a more proactive approach to our careers but allows us adapt to the changing marketplace.

A focused, tight resume is still key in landing that dream job. We understand that you have interviewed Martin Yate, the well-heeled author of our very popular Knock 'Em Dead Resumes, one of your favourite books. What advice really stood out for you, given his 25 years in the business?

Yate is a great example of my favourite kind of person to interview—someone who truly loves what he does. His books describe how to go after the job you want by ensuring your resume does its job effectively. But what really struck me in talking with him is how passionate he is about career advising. He used to be in a job that didn't fulfill him at all. When he discovered career advising, he threw himself into it and has become very successful as a result. I think this is inspiring for anyone who hopes to get into a career that utilizes their talents and energizes them.

Dan Kostka, B.A., J.D., is a freelance journalist and lawyer. He has profiled hundreds of careers for Bridges.com, a career exploration site subscribed to by schools across North America.

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