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An El Monte high school sophomore received an assignment in her English class that all students contemplating applying to college and eventually entering the workforce should perform.

The assignment required her to discover a job she would want to perform in the future and describe that position in as much detail as possible: the type of work environment, how many hours daily required, the annual compensation, how many years of schooling required to perform the job, and the job’s growth prospects. She was to begin her research at the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) on the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s website (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) and then investigate websites, articles and wherever her imagination and raw curiosity might take her.

Searching through the OOH, she began looking for occupations that paid $75,000 or more and had growth projections of 30% or better during the next 10 years. This list contained nurse practitioners (provide primary care to many patients); operations research analysts (use statistical analysis and simulations to solve business problems); personal financial advisors (help people make tax, investment and insurance decisions); physical therapists; physician assistants; and, statisticians. Nothing immediately caught her fancy.

Then she read, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of wind turbine service technicians will increase by more than 100% during the next 10 years. Current median salary is around $49,000 a year. Not bad, but what does this job entail?

Fred Sellers, who manages a General Electric (GE) wind farm outside of Abilene Texas, gives a snapshot of what it’s like to be a “wind technician.” He usually starts his day at 6:30 a.m., assigning a number of special projects, such as borescope inspections, gearbox and blade repairs, pitch battery change outs, and then executes his rounds, climbing the 200-foot, 1.5 megawatt GE turbines several times a day during the summer heat and the winter frigidity. If such industrial gymnastics is appealing, checkout the American Wind Energy Association http://www.awea.org/Careers/content.aspx?ItemNumber=811 and go to “Careers in Wind.” Climbing 200-foot towers at below zero temperatures to repair a gearbox, however, was not on her wish list.

Next she discovered emerging opportunities to help companies better communicate through their online speech and text messages, “chatbots.” Current dispensers of information, such as Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa, need to become more accommodating in the future. Silicon Valley firms likely will be hiring professional writers and comedians to compose witty conversational dialogue to engage callers and elegantly disentangle problems. She is not an entertainer.

Drones are already being used for agriculture, wildlife conservation, and scientific research. Their use, and the attendant piloting skills, will continue to increase in demand. She crashed her toy plane three years ago and has been traumatized since.

She reviewed information on hydroponics and aeroponics that allow for food production in abandoned buildings and roof tops: indoor farming will continue to expand exponentially. Hers, unfortunately, is not the greenest of thumbs.

Finally, she narrowed her search down to research in biology, but she also likes math, particularly involving probability and statistics (she is an ardent online card player). Becoming a biostatistician is, for now, appealing. This profession will require a master’s and possibly further postsecondary training depending on how she might specialize. The median income is $80,500. Biostatisticians are found in the federal government (particularly in organizations like the NIH and CDC), though they’re also found in finance, insurance, higher education, and consulting services. Work is full time and the projected growth rate within the profession is a sizzling 34% during the next 10 years.

Will all this pan out as planned? Probably not yet, as President Dwight Eisenhower stated: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Just getting ideas down on paper and figuring out their probability gets the mind moving in a positive direction. The future then becomes a lot more visible, and a lot less scary, when looking beyond the fog of the present.

Ralph Becker, is founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC (www.ivycollegeprep.net) and a resident of Long Beach. He has been counseling students for 11 years. He has a certificate in college counseling from the UCLA Extension, and has published "SAT* Vocab 800." He can be reached at rbecker@ivycollegeprep.net.

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