The Data Center: Deluge Of Jobs Expected In Water Management

NEW ORLEANS – The Data Center’s new report, “The Water Workers: Workforce Opportunities in Water Management in Southeast Louisiana,” finds “Southeast Louisiana has an unprecedented opportunity to shape a growing water management (WM) economic cluster focused on the costly restoration and protection of our coast.”

         The report states WM opportunities means employment for thousands of workers in relatively high-paying jobs requiring low-to-moderate levels of education and training.

         The Data Center estimates the cost of coastal restoration at $50 billion and finds protection projects are driving the WM industry, which, according to their report, employed 64,587 people in 2013. “Water management is one of the largest clusters in Southeast Louisiana and is among the fastest growing,” the report states.

         The report finds there are 4 factors that will further fuel growth in this sector: planned investment from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) into sediment diversion, marsh creation, barrier island building and other large coastal construction projects; local parishes increasingly taxing themselves to fund levees and other protection systems; an invigorated wetland mitigation market responding to the demand from current and planned capital-intensive energy investments; and private industries along the coast turning to coastal protection measures themselves to combat rising sea levels and demonstrate resiliency.

         According to the report, more than 3,500 jobs were added in the top 20 WM jobs between 2010 and 2014 in Southeast Louisiana. The largest growth was seen in middle-skill occupations, such as welders, carpenters, and pipefitters and there was also significant growth in jobs for accountants and construction laborers.

         The Data Center’s report found in many of the top 20 WM occupations, more than 15 percent of the workforce is 55-years-old or older. Researchers say new jobs, plus retirements, will yield more than 12,000 job openings between 2015 and 2019 in the top 20 WM occupations and the thousands of projected job openings in the top 20 WM occupations represent an employment boon for Southeast Louisiana.

Because occupations span many industries, the report found WM employers will have to compete with other employers that seek these same skill sets. Data shows WM has a distinct wage disadvantage as compared to oil and gas where average annual wages are $105,817, but jobs in the WM cluster grew at a faster rate from 2010 to 2014.

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