When One Door Closes…

As we on the Space Coast join the rest of our state to save the space assets the United States has built here in Florida, it’s no question that the outlook for individual KSC shuttle workers is worrisome at best.  There is no getting around the looming layoffs, whether Constellation is maintained or not.  It’s not easy to find many silver linings, but some data and positive approaches to the future do offer a glimmer of hope for at least some of the affected workforce.

A November 2009 study conducted by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation revealed an estimated 600 job vacancies in a seven-county area including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, and Volusia Counties.  The survey was conducted by using an industry cluster of about 670 businesses likely to re-employ aerospace workers.  This snapshot does not include everything available, so it’s more of an indicator for what’s out there, and that’s a good thing.  What’s more, about 13 percent of the top vacancies were listed as positions that were continually being recruited.  Two in the positives column so far.

Finding Viable Options

While 600 jobs may not seem like many in the face of thousands of layoffs, it does offer a positive sign that with at least some economic recovery going on among Central Florida businesses, we are heading in the right direction.  The most job openings are in Architecture and Engineering, Computer and Mathematical positions, Office and Administrative Support and Business and Financial Operations.  Six of the top 10 job vacancies are for engineers, which also mark the top-ranking vacancy by wage.  This is more positive news for the engineers, and the technicians seeking engineering degrees, that are looking to new careers when the shuttle program ends.  Viable options are good.

Change is not easy, but more often than not, when there is personal development involved, the outcome is invariably positive.  While current job vacancies may require some degree of retraining, with those skills come personal and professional growth.  It’s a glimmer of hope for KSC workers who decide to take this time to reinvent their careers.  And another bright spot is that through Brevard Workforce’s Aerospace Workforce Transition Program (www.launchnewcareers.com), and training programs, change is easier than it seems.

Transition Assistance

The Aerospace Workforce Transition Program provides services to help aerospace workers find new employment both inside and outside the aerospace industry by providing skills assessment, resume support, workshops, educational resources, career planning, training and even degree-seeking support resources.  The program is free to qualified workers.  Some services, including training and retraining new employees on-the-job, are also free to companies who need to hire.

Continuing education is another great option in the face of job loss.  Despite the still-recovering economy, Brevard Community College is seeing a rise in enrollment, with more than 25,000 students and 2,300 faculty and staff at four campuses and at KSC, as well as a thriving virtual campus.  Florida Tech, the University of Central Florida, Embry Riddle and several others also offer degree programs in many of the fields with the most job listings in the survey.

No Limits for the Willing

Those who are willing to reinvent themselves in order to meet the demands of the top local growth industries are not limited to engineering or to four-year degree earners.  The 2009 Occupational Highlights study conducted by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation highlighted the 20 fastest growing occupations in Brevard County, projected through 2017. Rounding out the top five are: Pharmacy Technicians, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Veterinarians, Fitness professionals, and Respiratory Therapists.  Seventy percent of the 20 fastest-growing occupations pay more than $15 per hour.  Among professional occupations with the most job openings in Brevard, Registered Nurses rank near the top, with an estimated 223 openings per year.  Other among the top 20 skilled occupations with the most openings are Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks, Computer Software Engineers, Medical Assistants and Elementary School Teachers.

As individuals affected by the shuttle explore their career options, they can rest assured that Brevard Workforce, Workforce Florida Inc., and a multitude of regional leaders are working hard to create new opportunities in Central Florida.  Finding ways to grow, stay positive and find new options through available programs can help make the transition more positive.  Whether it’s a new vocational certificate, an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree, more people affected by shuttle retirement are taking advantage of assistance and using education as the gateway to second careers.  And that’s a good thing for the individuals and our community.