Where the Jobs Are: Red-hot markets in a frozen economy

Michigan's unemployment rate hit 15 percent this summer-the first state to do so since West Virginia in 1984. But don't let the record-breaking bombshell fool you. Open positions exist. Employers are hungry to fill them. And schools are working double-time to prep their students for the sure-bet careers of today and in the future. Where are these hot spots? We scour the region to find out.


Healthcare plays a significant role in northwest Michigan's economy and will continue to do so. Nationally and regionally, health-related careers related are a good choice for employability now and in the future.

According to Kari Kahler, NMC Career and Employment Services Coordinator, a recent survey of NMC graduates found a significant portion were employeed in nursing or related healthcare positions in northwest Michigan.

The region's largest employer, Munson Healthcare, is currently recruiting for approximately 70 full- and part-time positions throughout

the system, according to Sue

Peters, vice president of human

resources. The positions vary from entry-level to skilled clinicians.

"For most openings, we receive applications from many well qualified individuals," she said. "The most difficult positions to fill currently are occupational therapists, physical therapists and neonatal nurse practitioners. There are also a number of RN and clinical homecare openings," says Peters

Munson expects that overall volumes will remain flat for the next year, and most of the hiring will be to fill positions that become available as a result of normal attrition.


Retail sales are noted among the 10-county region's largest occupations. In downtown Traverse City, DDA Deputy Director Rob Bacigalupi noted that interest in retail space availability has been perking up recently. Several new shops have opened since spring-many led by retailers new to downtown-including Sweat Pea, Roth Shirts, Options Clothiers and Jacques Torres Chocolates. Bacigalupi predicts the trend will continue, noting that inquiries have increased as summer has progressed.


In the business arena, accounting continues to be a solid career choice with eight-percent growth anticipated in the 10-county region over the next 10 years. (EMSI, 5/2009) "Accounting degrees are always in demand, whether in public accounting or the private sector … the need is greater now than it's ever been," said Kimberly Arbour, Human Resources Director at Dennis, Gartland & Niergarth, noting that the firm has added eight new accountants during the past 18 to 20 months. "Our firm continues to grow, and we will continue to seek the very best in the profession for internships and entry-level positions. We welcome giving young staff a chance to start their careers with us and look forward to them sharing their energy with the seasoned staff while they learn."


The economy has been especially challenging for nonprofit organizations, propelling fundraising to be listed among the top careers in 2009, according to U.S. News & World Report. Regional nonprofits are seeing some turnover in staffing and also see the demand for fundraising. Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities, cited a recent national survey projecting that demand for nonprofit services will continue to increase while donations and funding keep decreasing. The nonprofits' response strategy? Increased grant solicitation and professional fund development, says Smith, adding that development positions are often amont the hottest.


Northwestern Michigan College is primarily filling positions that opened up due to retirements or attrition, according to Christine Keenan, NMC's Human Resource Director. However, a few positions, such as a recently posted financial-aid position, are being added to handle the influx of students the college has been experiencing. The college saw a 16-percent increase in students this summer, and an additional 300 to 600 enrollees are anticipated for the fall.

Recent high school graduates aren't the only ones heeding the call of the future economy. According to Kari Kahler, NMC Career and Employment Services Coordinator, many older students are retraining for new careers. Students in the 35- to 49-year-old age group represent the second greatest growth area at NMC, she said; many are taking advantage of No Worker Left Behind funding. No matter whether they're preparing to compete in the newly emerging markets or in existing ones, students need to obtain the communication, math, science and critical thinking skills that cross over all careers.

Her advice? "Don't think of a career direction as a job title, but rather, as a skill set," she said. "And, with the emphasis on the information age, continue your education as a lifelong learner … don't stop learning."