LI's fast-growing jobs range from low-paying to high

Farmingdale State College dental hygiene student Amanda Fontana, Farmingdale State College dental hygiene student Amanda Fontana, left, gets some help from clinical instructor professor Loretta Mariano at the Dental Hygiene Care Center at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale on April 3, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Long Island has recovered all the jobs it lost during the recession. But the mix in the jobs being created has in recent years shifted from higher-wage work to occupations with lower wages.

In particular, Long Island has lost manufacturing jobs for years -- in part because of the shrinking defense industry -- and lately those have often been replaced by work in retail and health care.

A look into the Island's fastest growing jobs, as projected by the state Department of Labor, shows, however, there are opportunities across a range of wages.

The jobs run the gamut from software developers to home health aides. Some require college degrees, while others call for little formal training.

The Labor Department has identified 35 occupations whose growth on Long Island is predicted to range from 24.1 percent to 53.3 percent in the 10-year span ending in 2020.

The occupations reflect Long Island's changing demographics and economics. An aging population boosts demand for home health aides, for example. And as companies seek to digitize more of their operations, they need more software developers.

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Long Island will need to attract and retain young people so companies hiring in the high-growth occupations can meet their staffing needs, said John A. Rizzo, chief economist for the Long Island Association.

"More affordable rental housing and development around transportation hubs will be critical," he said.

Here are four of the fastest-growing occupations; data on salaries, employment, growth, education and licensing are from the state Labor Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

HOME HEALTH AIDES

LI median salary: $22,140

Projected growth: 46.9 percent between 2010 and 2020

Education: generally high school or equivalent

Licensing: state certificate required

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LI employment (2010): 13,150

Caring for the elderly in their homes is big business on Long Island and around the country.

People are living longer, and working children have limited ability to take charge of caring for aging parents, said Carol Rodat, a policy director for the Bronx-based Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a training and advocacy group for home health aides. The home health industry fills the gaps.

"There is no question it's fast growing," Rodat said.

Better Home Health Care Agency in Rockville Centre, which has about 500 aides, struggles to find enough of them, especially those fluent in Chinese or Russian or those who have the means to travel to areas with limited public transportation, said Rick Schaefer, the agency's chief operating officer.

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"There's always a need when it comes down to regular care, but particularly in hard-to-reach areas and specialty languages," he said.

To obtain state Department of Health certificates, aides can take free classes at agencies like Better Home Health. The department requires a minimum of 75 hours: 59 in the classroom and 16 of supervised training. Better Home offers 89 hours in the classroom and 16 hours of training.

East Meadow resident Lina Brennan, 48, completed Better Home's training in 2011. Soon she was working as a home health aide for the agency. The home health industry provided a quick way for her to jump back into the job market after more than 10 years as a stay-at-home mom.

"Some things are not that easy with the very sick and aged," she said. "But I like it."

FITNESS TRAINERS AND AEROBICS INSTRUCTORS

LI median salary: $35,830

Projected growth: 27.1 percent, 2010 to 2020

Education: high school diploma, sometimes college degree

Licensing: Many sports clubs require certification.

LI employment (2010): 1,810

The rising number of large fitness clubs on Long Island is spurring demand for personal trainers, said Vincent Carvelli, co-founder and president of the Academy of Applied Personal Training Education in East Meadow.

In the past 10 years fitness clubs measuring 25,000 to 50,000 square feet have been opening, compared with the 10,000-square-foot studios that were the prior standard, Carvelli said. That expansion means more jobs for personal trainers.

"Anybody providing fitness services to the consumer is hiring personal trainers," he said.

And gyms are insisting on certified trainers, which is driving demand for classes, said Carvelli, who has taught personal-training classes in Hofstra University's continuing education program since 1996.

After taking the six-week course, which includes 75 hours of theory and 18 hours of hands-on training, students receive a certificate. The course costs $975 to $1,270, including a fee for a certification exam.

Tina Sammis, 48, completed the course in April 2013. She had spent 20 years in the insurance industry but "didn't feel emotionally fulfilled."

The Huntington resident concedes her substantially lower income means she has to hustle to make a living. At the Huntington YMCA she works with obese preteens, special-needs teens and the elderly. She also has her own business, Better Choices Fitness.

"It is an amazing field," she said. "If you have the passion and drive, you are going to stand out."

DENTAL HYGIENISTS

LI median salary: $73,970

Projected growth: 28.5 percent, 2010 to 2020

Education: at least an associate's degree

Licensing requirement: state license a must

LI employment (2010): 1,790

Changing demographics are spurring demand for dental hygienists.

Aging baby boomers have held on to more of their teeth than any other generation; to accommodate them, many dentists are expanding their practices, and they will need to hire dental hygienists, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook. In addition, more people will have access to dental benefits because of the health care law, it says.

Those big changes are projected to provide lots of employment opportunities for dental hygienists, who typically work in dentists' offices and provide preventive services such as cleaning teeth and checking for signs of oral diseases.

Farmingdale State College, which offers associate and bachelor's degrees in dental hygiene, has for some time seen strong interest in its program, which accepts 52 students each year.

"We definitely have far more applicants than we can accommodate," said Maureen Tsokris, associate professor and acting chairwoman of the college's dental hygiene department.

West Islip resident Loretta Mariano, 39, who has associate and bachelor's degrees from Farmingdale State, knows firsthand about the field's opportunities. A month after she graduated with her associate degree in 1996, she got a job. Today she works as a dental hygienist and as an adjunct clinical instructor at Farmingdale State, training future hygienists.

"I think it's a wonderful profession," said Mariano. "It holds great promise and opportunities."

SYSTEMS SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS

LI median salary: $87,450

Projected growth: 25.4 percent, 2010 to 2020

Education: generally a bachelor's degree in related fields

LI employment (2010): 2,130

The demand for software developers is so strong some employers are offering hefty relocation fees of as much as $25,000 said Bob Cadet, the Uniondale-based branch manager of the staffing company Robert Half Technology.

Demand is "off the charts," Cadet said. "Right now I have 11 to 12 openings that I could fill in the next week if I had the candidates."

He said employers generally prefer applicants with a bachelor's degree in computer science or related fields but sometimes consider applicants with two-year technical degrees and several years of experience.

Several factors are spurring demand, Cadet said. As more hospitals automate because of the health care law, they need the services of software developers. As online shopping continues to gain market share, retailers need the software that allows them to sell online.

When a former employer laid off software developer Moses Rivera in 2011, the Port Washington resident went in to business for himself. After a couple of years he wanted to keep the business but was growing tired of the "monotony" of working at home.

After seeing Rivera's résumé online, Robert Half contacted him recently.

"The placement with Half was almost instant," he said.

Rivera, 49, started a full-time job at the end of February and added a part-time job at the end of March.

"There's a lot of opportunity," he said.

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