Florida Teens: The Possibilities Seems Endless After High School

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Like many parts of the United States, Florida has seen tremendous job growth recently, with four industries leading the way: retail, healthcare, high tech, and tourism/hospitality. What does this news mean for you? It means that these industries need qualified employees, thus with the right education and training, your job and career opportunities in these fields over the next few years will be practically endless.

Depending on the type of high school education you’ve received and the amount of work experience you have, here are your career options:

  1. Jump into a job right now. Some of the companies interviewed for this article say there are job opportunities — and we’re not talking about those minimum wage jobs — waiting to be filled right now for the qualified candidate.
  2. Get some more training and get certified. Some of the companies mentioned that they have job openings where a college degree is preferred, but with the right certifications a person could be hired without the degree.
  3. Attend community college and get an associates in a technical or specialized field and get an earlier start on a high paying job than if you attend a four-year college or university.
  4. Go to a four-year college or university. The best opportunities — especially those with career advancement — still require a college degree. But if you go this route, you have to gain work experience through co-ops, internships, summer jobs before you graduate.

“The earlier you can start a career focus or direction, the better,” says Dianne Harrington-Gocek, a recruiting specialist with Agere Systems, Inc. A key, it seems, is gaining experience and obtaining the necessary skills as early as possible. “Specialists are more in demand than generalists — so good technical skills are very valuable with or without a four-year college degree,” says Dr. Susan Quattrociocchi, director of the Northeast Tech Prep Consortium. However, if demand for these jobs ever slows, those with a four-year degree will hold up better, says Cindy Kane of Harris Corp.

Where to start? You have to first determine your strengths and interests and then decide on a path. Talk with current and former teachers, your family and friends, and use some of the resources in this article. If you’re still not sure, check out some of the resources at Quintessential Careers: Career Exploration. Finally, no matter what path you choose, you still have options in terms of gaining more experience and education. But the key seems to be gaining that experience as early as possible.

What follows is a short look into each of the four high-growth industries mentioned at the beginning of the article.


The technology industry in Florida is growing rapidly, and includes such specialties as: computer applications, information technology, software design, telecommunications, semiconductor manufacturing, aerospace, electronics, laser electro-optics, and electronics.

According to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, three of the fastest growing occupations in the state over the next seven years are in the technology industry: network systems and data communications specialists, database administrators, and computer software engineers.

Some of the major technology employers in the state include: Harris Corporation; Honeywell, Inc.; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Lucent Technologies; Motorola, Inc.; Paradyne Corporation; Siemens, Inc.; TechData Corporation, and the United Space Alliance.

“Get involved early. Experience is a differentiater,” says Cindy Kane, part of corporate college recruiting with Harris Corp. They’re “ramping up” their internship efforts because they’ve found them very rewarding — for both the company and the students. And with the right level of classes and experience, students can start an internship there after their first year in college.

It’s a little different at Cirent Semiconductor, a division of Lucent Technologies, where there are two paths students can follow, depending on their education goals and experiences. On path is the occupational area, where D’Juna Doby, a human resources associate, reports that the available jobs are operator in training and process analyst. The operator-in-training job does not even require a high school degree, but it is preferred. The process analyst requires an associates degree or some equivalent training/certification. Both positions require testing and both are hourly paid union jobs. The professional jobs typically require a masters or doctorate degree, but Cirent does offer what they call the Opportunities Awards Program to high school seniors. Students are identified at the state science fair and begin an internship at Cirent in June, right after graduating from high school.


Jobs in retail can follow one of two paths. First, the store management path, which often begins with a job as a retail associate and progress through various levels of store management and additional training. Second, the corporate path, which includes careers in buying/merchandising, logistics and distribution, as well as all other business functions.

And according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, the occupation with the largest growth over the next seven years is retail salesperson, with almost 14,000 annual job openings.

Sue Molennor, a senior human resource representative with a drug store chain, states that those who wish to follow the store management track need as a minimum a high school diploma while those going the corporate route need at least a bachelor’s degree — or related certification — and some work experience. Regardless of the path, “there will be a ceiling you’re going to reach if you don’t have the college degree,” says Molennor.

At JCPenney, a college degree is encouraged, but with the exception of some technical and financial positions available, a specific degree is not required for entry-level positions.

And other big Florida retailers, such as Office Depot, Beall’s, Home Shopping Network, Publix, and Winn-Dixie, all echo these sentiments: a four-year degree is preferred, but not required, and equivalent experience is very valuable. Besides these large Florida companies, there are numerous national chains operating within the state as well as many smaller stores operating in strip malls and shopping centers across the state.


Florida is well known for its booming tourism business, including the theme parks in central Florida, the Florida Keys, and the beaches and other attractions throughout the state, as well as growing eco-tourism. Ongoing and increased demand for tourist services causes demand for employees to increase. Florida hotels, restaurants, zoos, gardens, museums, and theme parks all have current job openings — and don’t see the demand diminishing any time soon. There are all types of job opportunities in this industry, from more blue collar type positions that require little formal education to higher paying white collar positions that require some mix of training/experience, certifications, and higher education. Waiters and waitresses (at more than 13,000 annual job openings) and food preparation workers (at more than 10,000 annual job openings) are among the occupations with the most job openings in Florida.

Some of the major tourism/hospitality firms in the state include: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Disney, Disney Cruise Line, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios Florida. This list does not include all the many hotels and restaurants located throughout the state.

For many of these companies, the way to get a foot in the door is by working for them as a part-time or seasonal employee. While these jobs often pay minimum wage and are considered “low-level” positions, you can still make a name for yourself. Universal Studios also offers internships to college students — from first year through senior. The goal is gaining experience in a variety of the company’s operations. Disney Cruise Line offers advanced training and educational programs so employees can advance or switch jobs at their pace.


With a large part of Florida’s population classified as older adults, the need for healthcare services is dramatic. According to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, three of the top ten occupations with the fastest growth over the next seven years are in healthcare: medical assistants, medical records and health information technicians, and dental hygienists. (Veterinary technologists and technicians are also in demand.) And among occupations with the largest growth in employment over the next seven years, the number of registered nurses is expected to by more than 6,000 jobs annually, which will eventually help the current severe nursing shortage.

The healthcare industry includes privately and publicly owned medical offices, hospitals, assisted living and nursing facilities, and health maintenance organizations. Another important sector in this industry are medical laboratories and medical device manufacturers. Some healthcare firms that operate in Florida include Baxter Healthcare; Bausch & Lomb, Inc.; Bausch & Lomb Pharmaceuticals; and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. There are also numerous health maintenance organizations, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and clinics located throughout the state — many owned or managed by such large organizations as Adventist Health System and Aetna U.S. Healthcare; however, in most case, employment is handled at each location rather than at a corporate site.

Johnson & Johnson only hires people with at least a bachelors degree, and like at Harris Corp., prefers masters and doctorates for other positions. However, the company also values work experience and service experience in combination with he degrees. Thus, the company does offer internships at various locations for college students.


Among the fastest growing occupations in Florida, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, are teachers — with kindergarten, self-enrichment education, secondary, and vocational education teachers among the 15 fastest growing occupations. Other fast-growing occupations include: fitness trainers, public relations specialists, personal financial adviser, and construction workers. Landscaping, child-care, maintenance, and office clerks are among the occupations with the most job openings.


Where do you go from here? You need to examine all your options. If you have a particular interest in working in one of these fast-growing industries, spend some time at some of the company’s Websites and read about the requirements for employment. You can find a list of these companies — and many more — in our Quintessential Directory of Company Career Centers. Email or call these companies to get more information. Visit some of the many Florida-specific job listing Web sites or one or more of the national job board Websites (where you can usually focus your search geographically). Get more information about general job-hunting tools, such as cover letters, resumes, and interviewing, by visiting Quintessential Careers: Career Resources.

If you are considering continuing your education, visit each college’s Web site and review their educational programs, internship and co-op programs, and their placement record. Ask for a list of companies that have hired recent graduates in your field of study. Find all sorts of resources by visiting Quintessential Careers: College Planning Resources. And once at the school of your choice, work hard on gaining the education experience you need as well as the work experience companies desire.

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

QuintCareers.com Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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