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The recent dip in the job market because of 2020’s public health situation was an unexpected bump in the road for Atlanta’s previously thriving economy. Fortunately, as the metro area’s economy begins to emerge from the crisis, it appears that the local employment market has the ability to be as welcoming as it was before. Looking at the pre-COVID metro Atlanta job market and where it is heading today, it’s clear that the city and its surrounding areas comprise a land of opportunity for job seekers looking to enter the service-based, skilled-worker employment market. That’s because many service-based businesses here are—and will be—seeking workers who can hit the ground running in what has been labeled “opportunity occupations,” such as nurses, mechanics, construction workers, lab technicians and leasing agents. And there’s more good news: these types of jobs typically pay higher-than-average wages and are available to workers without a traditional college degree.
In a recent assessment of Georgia’s workforce, the National Skills Coalition proclaimed that one of the greatest threats to Georgia’s economy is a lack of workers who are ready to fill opportunity occupations. The nonprofit organization reports, “Middle-skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree, make up the largest part of Georgia’s labor market. Key industries in Georgia are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs.” Fortunately, however, local businesses, schools and government agencies have started to join forces to offer training through a variety of skills-education programs, many of which are low-cost, or even free, for the trainee, opening up the possibilities for people of all skill levels.
So what are some of the hottest skilled-labor markets in Atlanta? Here, KNOWAtlanta takes a look at five arenas that continue to offer employees outstanding opportunities to make their mark on the local scene.
The number of healthcare jobs in Atlanta has grown more quickly than in any other industry, which isn’t surprising when you consider that the city is known for its high number of prestigious research hospitals. The Georgia Department of Education’s most recent In-Demand Jobs and Skills report states that healthcare jobs in Georgia are growing at a rate that’s more than one-and-a-half times that of other states.
Middle-skill occupations in the healthcare field that are in high demand include emergency medical techs, paramedics, nursing assistants, radiology techs and registered nurses. According to WorkSource Atlanta, a nonprofit organization that connects employers with skilled workers, those fields have the highest projected number of job openings in the next five years and require less education than a bachelor’s degree. For example, dental hygienists in Atlanta earn an average annual income of $74,000, and there are at least 500 new job openings projected annually. Hygienist positions typically require an associate’s degree and, for those in a hurry, degrees can be obtained online through several university programs in Georgia. Additionally, many health services support occupations that involve working directly with patients, like EKG technicians and phlebotomists, and are sought by Atlanta hospitals and clinics. Training for these jobs, such as the Patient Care Technician program at the Atlanta Career Institute, allows students who complete eight-week programs to take national certification exams to be quickly matched with employers who are eager to find them.
Caring for human bodies is a booming job market, but caring for automotive bodies is yet another hot industry in Atlanta. Technological innovation has dramatically affected the automotive industry over the last decade, so workers must not only master the nuts-and-bolts physical procedures involved in making and servicing a car, but also the highly technical computer-oriented work that’s required.
While students can pursue a diploma in an automotive program, such as a collision-repair degree from Chattahoochee Technical College (which takes about two years to complete), certificates requiring just a few months of training are also available for mechanics desiring work requiring highly specific skills, like automotive welding. With that type of training under their belts, workers can spring from high school graduation to a lucrative job in a matter of months. The average annual salary in 2020 for an auto body technician in Atlanta, according to Salary.com, is $52,507, and requires only a high school diploma and on-the-job training.
Often, opportunities to learn automotive-repair skills while working at the same time are available through employers’ apprenticeship programs. Many businesses hire mechanics in salaried positions where on-the-job training is combined with time in the classroom, usually provided by a local community or technical college. Such programs can last from four to six years on average. The military can also offer an opportunity to receive technical training in the automotive industry that can eventually lead to civilian middle-skill jobs, according to CareerVision.org, a career-planning service for young adults.
Even more profitable careers can be found in the aircraft mechanics industry, with average annual salaries reaching $85,398 in Atlanta, but these careers often require post-secondary education and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. There are about 800 projected new aircraft mechanic job openings annually in Atlanta, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
Chattahoochee Technical College
Manufacturing companies in Atlanta are constantly on the hunt for highly competent middle-skill workers who can maintain and support technical equipment of all types. And to prepare those employees, local colleges have stepped up their offerings in this arena. For instance, Gwinnett Technical College offers real-world skills taught by experts in fields like welding and construction management. To accommodate job seekers who shoulder responsibilities like day jobs or families they must care for, Atlanta Technical College even offers weekend and evening programs. In just four semesters, workers are prepared for manufacturing jobs like installation, operation and repair of electrical or hydraulic systems. Georgia also offers the HOPE Career Grant that, when combined with other education grants, covers most of an eligible student’s tuition fees when he or she enrolls in high-demand training programs in the state’s technical college system. Eligible majors include industrial pipefitting, precision manufacturing and maintenance, metals technician, robotic technician, truck maintenance technician and commercial truck driver.
Related careers in maintenance for everything from HVAC (air conditioning and heating systems) to high-tech computer systems are also plentiful in Atlanta. Most of those jobs require at least a high school diploma or some college training. Examples of such jobs are electrical power-line installers, who make $59,526 annually on average, and computer-user support specialists, who earn $39,700 on average. As in most jobs, a worker who has more experience and a number of special certifications will see an increase in that average salary.
When business is booming, governments and developers must plan for growth in the multifamily housing industry. That growth signals a need not only for middle-service construction workers, but also housing service professionals, like leasing agents, property managers and maintenance technicians who can fill middle-skill needs.
Enter the Atlanta Apartment Association (AAA), which recognizes the need for trained professionals to work as housing service providers. AAA’s Service Training Academy (STA) provides a six-week program to train workers and assist them in finding jobs at no cost to the individual with expenses paid by the Georgia Apartment Association Foundation. STA training enables students to acquire several housing maintenance-specific certifications, like that for a certified pool operator (CPO) or certified apartment maintenance technician (CAMT). Multifamily housing industry jobs are middle-skill occupations that can be quickly attained upon STA certification.
“There were seven of us who graduated, and over 20 companies who came to interview us,” says Walter Fizer, an AAASTA graduate. “As long as there are houses, as long as there are apartments, I am in demand.”
Because renting and leasing properties is considered a real estate activity, property managers and leasing agents must abide by several licensing requirements under the Georgia Real Estate Commission. Jumping through those extra hoops can pay off, though, as a typical property manager’s salary in Atlanta averages about $97,557, according to Salary.com.
Before the pandemic, tourists flocked to Atlanta every year, eager to absorb the city’s famous southern hospitality. There is great optimism that the area will see a return of this exceptional market sector, allowing jobs like hotel concierges, chefs, restaurant servers, travel agents, reservation agents and tour guides to once again abound in this city. Looking ahead, those interested in this market can prepare themselves for the coming influx of job opportunities.
Helms College, a nationally accredited school sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA), offers an associate’s degree program in hospitality event and catering operations at its Macon and Augusta campuses. The school’s culinary program teams up with a local hotel group to prepare students to meet the demand for experienced workers. In addition, schools like Gwinnett Technical College offer courses in hospitality management. If time is of the essence, job seekers who’ve opted to skip the college degree program can receive certificates in as little as one semester in fields like event coordination or hotel management, preparing for jobs in hotel front offices and catering departments.
“Students can also earn certificates as they work toward their degree in order to make them more employable prior to graduation,” says Daniel Henderson, program director of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at Gwinnett Technical College. “Skills-based training and soft skills coaching, like interpersonal communication, is imperative in order to fill the employee knowledge gap. A hands-on learning approach prepares students to enter the workforce in the hospitality industry, for employees who do everything from delivering guest services to synthesizing financial reports.”
Opportunities also exist for would-be entrepreneurs who see a niche in the hospitality and tourism market in Atlanta. Small businesses that cater to tourists, like event planners or travel agents, can take advantage of the city’s soon-to-return tourist draw. And budding entrepreneurs can check out free online courses offered by the Small Business Administration that focus on financing and marketing new ventures.
For more information, visit:
Atlanta Apartment Association Service Training Academy
Atlanta Career Institute
Atlanta Technical College
Chattahoochee Technical College
Georgia HOPE Career Grant
Georgia Real Estate Commission
Gwinnett Technical College