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It's a fact many in Buffalo know all too well: If your job can be done by a machine, you might not have that job much longer. It's something young people are advised to consider when deciding which careers to pursue.

Fortunately, forward thinkers know the aging baby boomer generation is going to need a lot of T.L.C. -- and technology -- that only warm bodies can provide. That means jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, many of the hot jobs for the coming decade are related to the jumbo generation's health needs, making home care specialists, nurses and pharmacists in high demand.

Jaclyn D'Aloia is lucky: She has loved chemistry since high school, where a teacher suggested she try pursuing pharmacy in college.

"I like the fact that I know there will be a job for me in three years," said D'Aloia, a second-year pharmacy student at the University at Buffalo and intern at the Evans Road Eckerd Drugs in Williamsville. D'Aloia said the field is already experiencing an influx of customers. But there's more than just drugs. The Labor Department has an abundance of statistics which, with careful examination, can help guide job seekers.

For starters, despite the dot-com bomb, computer-related fields are expected to give the health profession a little competition.

The Labor Department predicts that the top five fastest growing occupations through 2008 will be:

Computer engineers, up 108 percent.

Computer support specialists, up 102 percent.

Systems analysts, up 94 percent.

Database administrators, up 77 percent.

Desktop publishing specialists, up 73 percent.

While computer skills are considered imperative for all future jobs, young people will have other options if life-shackled-to-a-keyboard isn't their idea of a dream job. How fast a career is growing doesn't tell the whole story.

Though desktop publishing specialists will grow 73 percent, the total number of additional jobs will be only 19,000.

Half of the top 25 fastest-growing occupations are in health care, from medical assistants (58 percent growth) to physician assistants (48 percent), from medical records technicians (44 percent) to respiratory therapists (43 percent). Registered nurses jobs are expected to grow by 450,000, the seventh-largest job growth, even though percentagewise it's only a 22 percent increase.

Erik Diringer, a junior at Canisius College, wants to be a cardiologist. While Diringer, who spent last summer in Honduras helping set up medical clinics, doesn't know if it will be difficult to find a job when the time comes, he knows that getting into medical school alone will put him on the path to a job. "Med school throws you into it," he said of a career. "At the very least, I'm guaranteed a lot of hands-on experience."

While the boomers are inadvertently bequeathing jobs upon their children, women also have an interesting role in shaping the future job market.

Women's labor force growth is expected to increase at a faster rate than men's -- 16.6 percent between 1994 and 2005 as compared with 8.5 percent for men. This means that women will increase their share of the labor force to 48 percent from the current 46 percent.

That's one of the reasons why the U.S. Labor Department lists child care professionals as a broadening field.

So what trend should a young person prepare for?

No matter what job field is being pursued, some very old-fashioned skills will help.

Shelly Field, author of more than 25 career-oriented books including "100 Best Careers of the 21st Century," suggests learning computer skills, even going to a local library if a college course is not available.

That one skill alone will help any job seeker. From there, a little innovation:

First, don't just look for ads.

"Not all jobs are in classified ads. There is a hidden job network," Field said. "Tell everyone you know you're looking for a job, and what kinds of work you want to do."

Next, Field suggests creating your own job and selling the idea to the human resources departments at different companies. Who knows? The idea may be ahead of its time.

"There are always hard industries to get into, but if you're creative, you can find a job in that field," Field said.

"You may touch on a need that a company has, and if you make up the job, you're the only one in competition for it."

Sound crazy?

"It may sound hard to believe, but it really works," Field said. "You have to take risks when hunting for a job. The worst someone can say is 'no.' And that's not so bad."

Even if you aren't employed, Field recommends getting a business card, with name, phone number and e-mail address, skills or desired job.

"People don't always remember names, but they hold onto business cards."

In Western New York, with 31.3 percent of the population age 50 or older, and nearly 40 percent over the age of 45, there may be a higher proportion of jobs left empty by the generational shift.

Stephanie Zuckerman-Aviles, director of career development at Buffalo State College, said this year was the "best market teachers have ever had both nationally and locally."

Teaching is hot now "because of the aging teacher population and more retirements, plus decreased class sizes and the growth of suburban schools," Zuckerman-Aviles said.

Although all fields have their ups and downs, some may not be worth riding out. The Labor Department also made a list of declining fields. The downsizing in these fields is the result of technological advances, shifts in consumer demand for certain goods and services, foreign trade, and changes in the geographical location of the production of certain goods and services.

Declining occupations include: farmers, sewing machine operators, electrical/electronic assemblers, private household cleaners/servants, office machine operators, service station attendants, and bank tellers.

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