In Polk County’s Lakeland-Winter Haven MSA, among the fastest-growing jobs are post-secondary teachers, chemical equipment operators, family general practitioner doctors, medical care aides, and chefs, according to CommercialCafe and the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

It should come as no surprise that these jobs are in demand, here’s why:

POST-SECONDARY TEACHERS

The number of college-level teachers has increased 407 percent from 140 in 2009 to 710 in 2018, putting it in the No. 4 spot in the county’s list of fastest-growing jobs.

With seven colleges and universities in the county, most of which are growing, it makes sense that more professors and assistant professors are needed to teach college students. The growth comes in many forms. For instance, Florida Southern College has 150 more students this year than last, Southeastern University is offering more online and dual-enrollment classes, and Florida Polytechnic University is adding new degree programs.

“Post-secondary teaching positions are in high demand in Polk County because we have a number of institutions of higher education that offer great educational experiences,” said associate provost Dr. Amy Bratten.

“Many of our local students participate in dual-enrollment programming, which increases the need for collegiate faculty,” she said. “Also contributing to the county’s need for collegiate faculty is the idea that this generation of students tends to stay local for their post-secondary education.” 

CHEMICAL OPERATORS AND TENDERS/FIREFIGHTER SUPERVISORS                              

Increasing 467 percent from 60 in 2009 to 340 in 2018, ranking it No. 2 in growth, this area will see an increase in numbers when Nucor Steel Florida starts hiring.

The No. 1 steel producer in the United States, Nucor is building a $240 million micro mill just outside the city limits of Frostproof. That plant will eventually employ 250 people making an annual average salary of $66,000.

Representing another small group, first-line supervisors of firefighters and prevention workers increased 460 percent from 50 to 280, ranking it No. 3 on the list.

FAMILY AND GENERAL PRACTITIONERS

This category comes in at No. 5 in Polk County, increasing from 80 to 330 jobs in the last 10 years, a jump of 313 percent.

In 2018, Winter Haven Hospital and BayCare Medical Group announced a residency program in partnership with the Florida State University College of Medicine to help recruit doctors to Polk County and to improve access to primary care services. That program, accredited in October, should help address this deficiency: Polk County has 51 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents compared to an average of 80 in Florida and 88 in the nation.

Joseph Davis, Lakeland Regional Health associate vice president of Physician Recruitment and Ambulatory Operations, said the hospital is excited to see expansive growth in the field of primary care in our community.

He said several factors are contributing to the increase:

“First, we see medical students are increasingly drawn to the work-life opportunities available in those specialties, both inside the hospital and as an outpatient provider.”

“Outpatient primary care providers are no longer required to have hospital privileges, though many value that connection when a patient of theirs is in the hospital. In a hospital setting, the internal medicine physician typically works seven days and then has seven days off, with no on-call duties, and that is often attractive to medical students.”

Second, “insurance carriers tend to design plans that encourage members to regularly see their primary care provider. Evidence-based medicine shows that primary care providers can detect diseases much earlier when annual visits are conducted.”

“Lastly, our country is seeing more primary care providers because communities, governments, healthcare consumers and the healthcare industry are demanding more proactive healthcare,” Davis said.

“Investing more in primary care makes sense. The more a person sees a primary care provider and has chronic issues or at-risk behaviors identified, the less likely he or she is to be admitted to the hospital – and healthier residents contribute to a more productive, vibrant community.”

MEDICAL CARE AIDS

This field is expanding in Polk, increasing 515 percent from 200 in 2009 to 1,230 in 2018. That puts it in the No. 1 position of fastest-growing jobs in the Lakeland-Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area (defined as Polk County).

It is also the fastest-growing job in America, increasing 251 percent in the last 10 years to 2.2 million jobs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of Polk’s population is age 65 or older. The aging population and number of snowbirds who arrive each fall mean more people in need of assistance at home.

“Most folks that we talk to, if they have a choice, they overwhelmingly prefer to stay in their own home,” said Steve Bissonnette, president of VISTE, Volunteers in Service to The Elderly.

“As people age, there are just times when they have small needs of assistance, which can become more so over time. Addressing the small things can allow them an improved quality of life to be able to stay in their own home.”

“Personal care aids also help with social isolation,” Bissonnette said. “It’s a growing problem, challenge, concern, and many times that in-home person also helps to be a companion, which is invaluable as well.”

ROUNDING OUT THE TOP 10

  • No. 6: Market research analysts and marketing specialists, increasing 308 percent from 130 to 530.
  • No. 7: Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop workers, increasing 303 percent from 350 to 1,410.
  • No 8: Chefs and Head Cooks, increasing 300 percent from 40 to 160.
  • No. 9: Health Technologists and Technicians, increasing 300 percent from 90 to 360.
  • No. 10: Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers, increasing 253 percent from 150 to 530.

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.