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Future Jobs

By Jack Feuer, Illustrations by Kozyndan

Published Jul 1, 2009 9:00 AM

When it comes to providing job skills for the future, UCLA Extension has always been on the cutting edge, starting with French classes for nurses going overseas during WWI, and later aerospace classes for LA's burgeoning flight industry. Now, classes look ahead to sustainability, social networking and online advertising.

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Just one wave of the future: Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook.

Where will you be working in five years?

Perhaps in a job that doesn't even have a name yet. Despite the recession, there are bright lights of opportunity in the workplace as new industries emerge, new technologies create whole new job categories, and new skills are needed. UCLA Extension is preparing Angelenos for all of those future jobs, as it has for more than a century.

When the continuing-education powerhouse was born in 1917, one of its first courses was teaching French to nurses being sent overseas to minister to the wounded in World War I. A few years later, after the infant movie industry migrated west, Extension taught filmmaking. A few decades later, it trained aerospace engineers.

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Today, 60,000 students take Extension courses every year. From 2002-2007, Extension has generated more than $1.23 billion in economic benefit to Los Angeles. The annual financial contribution of what is fondly known as "UNEX" to the L.A. economy is $250 million — more than 70 percent of which is related to increased earning power of the students who have completed Extension programs.

And Extension's focus remains firmly fixed on the future.

"It's part of our DNA," says Extension Dean Cathy Sandeen. "You could trace it back to the land-grant mission of UCLA, which is to engage with the broader community and ensure it is benefiting from the research and programs at the university. That's why over time, we developed particular expertise in serving working professionals in Los Angeles. We are in close contact with the marketplace. What's happening in industry? What's shifting? How can we remain in the forefront and supply knowledge and skills that industries and organizations want?"

To help prepare students for future jobs, Sandeen M.B.A. '05 has formed an advisory board of leaders and senior executives to "help guide me in mega-trends so that we can plan for them."

So what skills will the working world of tomorrow need? Here are several current and soon-to-launch Extension courses and programs that collectively answer that critical question.

SUSTAINED GROWTH

Not even the recession can slow down the growth of green. On the contrary, growing sustainable businesses is a key component of the Obama administration's recovery plan, with more than $20 billion earmarked for greening the economy and $500 million of the stimulus slated for green-jobs training.

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Cutting across many different occupations and industries, there are many competing ideas of what constitutes a green job. U.S. News & World Report said in a March online story that a broad definition might include "everything from scientists and engineers devising technological breakthroughs to people building wind turbines and installing solar panels."

By any definition, though, there is a wide consensus that the field will blossom.

A key component to a green future, of course, is sustainability. This fall, UNEX plans to fully roll out its Global Sustainability Certificate Program, which will offer students concentration in one of four subject areas: design, business strategy, environmental law and policy, and energy and technology. The program "emerged from many, many companies and organizations who are hiring individuals responsible for sustainability efforts within those organizations," notes Sandeen. "Not many of those people have formal degrees in environmental sustainability."

The opportunities are huge, adds Karim Cherif, associate dean for academic affairs at UCLA Extension. "We're talking about careers at so many different levels of multiple industries, including clean-energy industries; infrastructure projects; design; technology; law and other areas of expertise which involve contributing to a positive impact on global sustainability … as more companies learn that sustainability can be profitable, and they come to understand the importance of their interrelationship with the natural environment — because people will demand it — the career paths will just blow wide open, just as they did when the Internet first became mainstream."

WELL-USED

The Internet, in fact, is now old media. Digital technology has created revolutions in industry after industry, and entirely new jobs are springing up everywhere. One of the most fascinating new fields is "user experience," which Sandeen explains is "a combination of technology and design that facilitates and enhances the user's ability to engage with various technologies. One example would be: How do you design an e-commerce website to optimize the user's ability to find and purchase something?"

Extension hopes to offer students the answers to these and other questions in a User Experience Certificate Program now under development for a planned launch in 2010. It's "an increasingly important area of Web development," notes Scott Hutchinson '87, M.F.A. '93, Extension program director. "With all the technological advances out there, the speed of the Internet and maturing of game design and game development, the idea of play, interaction, learning and creating [an online] space that can respond to different users in what we call 'narrowcasting ways' is really here. Lots of companies that are now purely virtual understand that user experience is a differentiation."

The program, which will probably consist of around 10 courses, is, like many future jobs, expected to attract interest from a diverse group of working professionals. Hutchinson believes that the User Experience certificate will be sought by people in engineering, communications, cultural anthropology and graphic design. And for very good reason — "Yahoo, Google, Microsoft all really covet these people," he notes. "Headhunters are now specializing in interaction designer placements. And a user experience designer typically makes double what a regular designer makes."

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A "BANNER" OPPORTUNITY

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Twitter and MySpace.

Arguably, no industry has been transformed by digital technology as much as advertising — creating it, planning it and buying it. At UNEX, "Advertising in the Digital Age" has been taught since 2001 as a requirement in the Advertising Certificate Program. The program teaches students how to create successful online ad campaigns and, having been created from the outset with an eye on cutting-edge practice and integration of technology, it remains at the forefront of future job opportunities.

Students who take the class — ad agency executives, entrepreneurs and international students — tend to have backgrounds in traditional media, but "they see their clients demanding more digital marketing solutions and allocating more of their marketing budgets to online," explains co-instructor Patricia Galea, executive director of digital marketing and strategy for Disney ABC Media Networks.

"From a career perspective, the course enables them to keep their skill-set updated so that they can succeed in their careers as more marketing roles require digital marketing skills," she adds. "Large brands now spend an average of 15 percent of their budgets on online marketing, and it's increasing every year. For smaller brands, online media can account for 50 percent or more of their marketing budget. Even during the recession, I see many companies and agencies continuing to invest in their digital marketing efforts and their digital talent, while cutting back in other areas."

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In fact, online research resource eMarketer predicts that total advertising spending on the Internet in the United States will top out at more than $25 billion in 2009, a growth rate of just under 9 percent from 2008. "That will be the lowest year-over-year increase for online advertising ever," the online analysis says. But, it adds, that number "will still be a robust increase compared with nearly all other media."

SOCIAL SITUATION

So expect no fall-off in the demand for online ad campaigns, which explains why Galea's course is still so popular. And it's likely to remain high atop the list of interest in future jobs. "Tomorrow's digital marketers will need to keep up with changes in technologies and consumer behavior and adoption of those technologies," Galea concludes. "This change is what keeps the digital marketing career fun and exciting."

Digital technology also has spawned the latest white-hot pop culture phenomenon, social media networks. Facebook has 200 million users. Senators are on Twitter. So is Southwest Airlines. Companies routinely scan Twitter, in fact, to see if any of their consumers are complaining. They're also building their own online "communities."

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YouTube and Facebook.

Not surprisingly, jobs are following, as marketers look for social media marketing experts and hire "community managers" to monitor and supervise companies' social media activities.

Classes on social media marketing are springing up all over, but one of the first was UCLA Extension's Social Media Marketing, launched last November. It began life as a one-day seminar in the summer quarter of 2007, but interest was so great it was offered again that winter, also with tremendous enrollment. It is now a six-week course offered as an elective in the Marketing and Advertising Certificate Programs, and its latest incarnation last spring attracted more than 50 students. All sorts of students have signed up, including professionals in communications, entertainment, the auto industry, financial services and small businesses.

TRADING UP

"We could have done 100," says Beverly Macy, CEO of social media consultancy Gravity Summit and creator and co-instructor of the class. "That's the need out there. Because who's going to build these [online] communities and maintain them? It's a whole new job category."

What's the No. 1 contributor to jobs in Los Angeles? Before you say 'hurray for Hollywood," consider that international trade generates directly or indirectly 1.1 million jobs in California and 3.3 million jobs in the United States, according to Elizabeth Glynn, business development director for custom programs at UCLA Extension and an instructor in the International Trade and Commerce program.

The global trade program, which offers concentrations in global business, financial management and import/export operations (other general business courses also teach principles and practices relating to international business), was launched in 2005, but it is burgeoning in an increasingly interconnected world. And its economic impact here at home is widespread, notes Glynn, "not just manufacturing, but service providers, ports, rail system, truckers, bankers, insurance, law — all of those occupations are impacted by [global] trade."

What the global trade jobs of tomorrow will require, she adds, is the ability to "work with people of different backgrounds — it's the cultural, regulatory and other factors that impact whether or not we succeed. California has always been global in nature, but we tend to be more parochial in focus. [The International Trade and Commerce program] is designed to make us stronger and competitive players."

YOUTUNES

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Has any business been more flummoxed by 21st-century technology than the music industry? Record companies are anachronisms. Record stores are falling like dominoes. And all of us are plugged into our iPods.

"The music business can't be saved," says Andrew Scheps, UCLA Extension instructor and member of the advisory board for Extension's new Independent Music Production program. "That's over. The music is free; the price has been set. But people are still making music. Instead of having some very mainstream outlets for music, where a few record companies controlled what was heard, music is now available everywhere. You can go on MySpace and listen to 50,000 bands and when you're done, there are 10,000 there that weren't there when you started."

So the trick is to get noticed. And with today's technology, that's a do-it-yourself deal. The equipment to record music — professionally recorded music — can cost less than $1,000, and anybody can be producer, performer, record label and music marketer all in one. That's why UCLA Extension started its new Independent Music Production certificate program.

Designed for independent artists, lyric writers, composers and music producers, the program teaches artists and others to write, produce and record music in their home studio and market it themselves. "Old-school music is you just basically are an artist and just play shows," explains mixer/recorder Scheps, whose credits include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Audioslave, Alien Ant Farm and Johnny Cash. "Those days are gone. All the roles taken by the record label and tour promoters and managers are coming back on the artists themselves. Our idea was to take the older UCLA Extension programs in engineering, songwriting and music business and roll them into one."