TWIN FALLS • Health care, the computer industry and manufacturing offer some of south-central Idaho’s hottest jobs. But despite heavy hiring, wages in some other fields will decline as skilled workers retire.
An estimated 8,000 to 11,000 U.S. baby boomers hit age 65 daily. As they retire, expect to see wages fall as inexperienced workers take their place.
“This is occurring frequently in our labor force as there are a number of industries that have a higher percentage of older workers currently within its ranks,” said Jan Roeser, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor.
Industries with the highest ratios of 55-and-older workers in south-central Idaho include utilities, at 57.5 percent of its work force; educational services, 33.2 percent; agriculture, 25.8 percent; and transportation and warehousing, 15.5 percent.
Idaho Power Co. has hired 225 employees and had 113 people retire since Jan. 1. Another 538 employees are eligible to retire in the next year. For the past five years, the company has been preparing and implementing succession plans for positions that will be most affected.
In the next five years, 799 Idaho Power workers will be eligible for retirement, said Sarah E. Griffin, human resources director. In the next 10 years, 1,086.
“Given that our total work force is just over 2,000 employees, this is significant,” Griffin said.
But even as boomers retire and wages drop, some Idaho Power jobs continue to increase in both demand and pay.
“We have a specified pay scale for all positions that is fixed, but we are experiencing the need to offer hiring incentives more often for some of these specialized, more difficult-to-fill positions,” Griffin said. These include journeyman linemen, cybersecurity professionals, information technology positions and engineers.
Another hot job: registered nursing.
The Idaho Department of Labor estimates south-central Idaho will have annual openings for 45 registered nurses every year until 2022.
South Central Public Health District employs eight registered nurses and on average hires one or two every year. Cheryle Becker, family and children’s health division administrator, doesn’t currently have open nursing positions, but she’s always on the lookout for bilingual nurses.
“Right now we don’t have any,” Becker said. “I would really like to have bilingual because I have to use an interpreter.”
Hiring nurses in the public health sector is often difficult, Becker said.
“It’s just public perception,” she said. “You just watch the TV shows and people work in the hospital. It’s not mainstream. ... Public health is not something that people think about when they think of a traditional nurse profession.”
Nurses in public health work more with population health and epidemiology, rather than at the bedside of a surgery patient.
In some hospitals, nurses are allowed to take on extra shifts, but nurses at the public heath district work regular, weekday schedules, which some prefer. Another incentive: good benefits and retirement.
Hospital nurses’ extra shifts pad their paychecks. The potential downfall, Roeser said, is that some nurses may be less willing to mentor or instruct upcoming nurses because they’ll lose out on those high wages.
Manufacturing has also developed into a hot job because of automation. Factory jobs today are more sophisticated than the line jobs of the past. The old worry was that robotics would replace people, but the machines still require humans to fix problems.
“Most kids don’t realize the opportunities that manufacturing can provide, and their parents don’t steer them towards a factory job. These factories are very high-tech, and the jobs are not boring line jobs, but include design, project management, management of workers, oversight of the equipment,” Roeser said. “The factories are quieter than in the past, and the stainless steel equipment is pristine.”
Universities and colleges have created programs to meet the demand of certain manufacturing occupations such as computer programming, support and design. Often students are hired before they graduate, Roeser said.
“There needs to be more career direction, and I know that (College of Southern Idaho) is working with school districts to help with career counseling and development. It is a step in the right direction,” Roeser said.