The economic lives of Millennials in Florida
No Cubicle, Thank You
James Roesner came to Florida from his native Michigan to attend Embry- Riddle. He got an internship, found himself in front of a computer all day and realized he wanted something else. He moved to Miami and joined an electrical power technology two-year degree program at Miami Dade College.
Today, he’s a lead substation electrician, foreman of a crew for FPL that keeps the utility’s Volusia County substations running. “We’re where all the high-voltage lines meet the low-voltage lines,” says Roesner, 27. “We work a ton of hours. The job definitely keeps you busy. When the hurricane came through, it was non-stop. Got to keep the lights on.”
Roesner is in an unusual — and among Millennials — enviable spot. While he and FPL declined to discuss his pay, utility industry employees are among the best-paid Millennials in Florida, with average annual earnings of nearly $66,000. That’s more than double the Millennial average and well above the total for all Florida workers.
Those utility workers, however, make up just a fifth of 1% of the Millennial workforce, just 5,629 workers in Florida. (Utilities overall employ just 30,182 of all ages.)
Millennials, meanwhile, are overrepresented in fields typically associated with youth and low pay: Retail, clerical posts and restaurants. The average Millennial in those fields is in an $8- to $10-an-hour job. The money for Millennials, and workers in general, is in utilities, mining and quarrying, wholesale trade, real estate, finance and insurance, management and tech work. But those sectors employ only 16% of the Millennial workforce. More than double that number work in restaurants and retail. Roesner says there’s opportunity in the skilled trades and “a lot more money to be made.” He sees businesses in need of plumbers, welders, electricians, wood workers and other trades.
Young people historically have higher unemployment rates, a function of their lack of education, status as temp or seasonal hires, jobs in sectors vulnerable to cyclical shocks and status as last-hired, first-fired. Millennials have shared that history.
Roesner, in addition to his substation work, works with students at Indian River State College and tells younger people of the benefits of skilled work. He bought a three-bedroom house in Ormond Beach in 2015.
“I absolutely love what we do,” Roesner says of his substation work. “We trouble-shoot. We’re electricians sometimes. We’re mechanics sometimes. It’s nice. I’ve got people on my crew from 35 to 55. I love it because we all have a different approach to everything. We all bounce ideas off each other. ‘I did this last week.’ ‘I did this as an apprentice down south.’ It’s nice to have different outlooks.”
A generation of baristas and tech workers
The Real Story:
More than a third of Millennials in Florida work in the retail or hotel/restaurant sectors. The best-earning Millennials work for utilities, earning an average of $65,928 a year, 160% of the average for all job categories. Less than 1% of Millennials are employed by utilities, however. Average annual wages for all ages in Florida are $43,680. Millennials’ average wages are $28,692.
Where Millennials Work
The following industries employ three-fourths of all Millennials in Florida:
Florida is home to four companies rated in Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials: Ultimate Software, Weston, (No. 5); Arthrex, Naples, (No. 28); JM Family Enterprises, Deerfield Beach, (No. 45); Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, (No. 74). JM is also on the list for best for Boomers, and Ultimate is on the GenX list. Each list is based on employee surveys nationally.
Florida ranks fourth in the number of Millennials, behind California, Texas and New York.
In the Workforce
Austin Walker works for a Stuart company that supplies pumps and other equipment for water and wastewater treatment plants. The 29-year-old was born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, moved with his family to Florida in 2004, joined the Navy after graduating from Port St. Lucie High, serving on the USS Vicksburg in its engine room, and then used his GI Bill benefits — avoiding student loans — to earn two associate’s degrees in electrical engineering fields at Indian River State College. He would still like to get a bachelor’s but for now is working, planning to get married in March and is house shopping. He declines to be precise about his salary but says it’s between $40,000 and $50,000.
Here’s how some employers in Florida see their Millennial employees:
Regional managing partner
Franklin Street, Orlando
Every single minute of their lives has been planned for them. They had lacrosse practice, piano, dance lessons and other activities. They were raised with helicopter parents, and we’ve noticed that their entire family is following their kids around. Their whole life, they have been given instructions.
They are very motivated. They were raised with good manners, good work ethic and are very trainable. We have to teach them and prepare a training program for them.
Another thing to consider is that technology is part of them. They don’t even think about it. It’s just who they are. They were raised with it. We must learn to adapt to the way that they work or we will be left behind. I enjoy working with them. They are hardworking, dedicated individuals, and they are the future.
Vice president, human resources/ organizational development
Tropical Financial Credit Union, Miramar
I know of one Millennial in a location who is phenomenal. There are a few. The majority are not like that. They’re not lazy. Their initiative level is different. They think different. Their purpose of why they’re doing things is different. It’s more about what’s the benefit for them. Don’t mess with their lunchtime.
They have a better balance of work/ life. They’re not as stressed as some folks who have another level of work ethic. The effect of the recession is they’re staying at home longer, relying more on the parents. I don’t see this desire, ‘I’m going to work overtime.’ Their attention span is kind of short. They don’t take the time to read. You can get to them faster with a text message than an e-mail.
Oasis Outsourcing, West Palm Beach
The rate of change they’ve experienced since they’ve been born has been almost exponential. My observation is that they work just as hard as anyone else. I think their work ethic is just as good as anybody else’s. They are so much more technologically savvy.
GenCon operations manager
They have a different attitude. They’re probably not as intense as we were. We came out of blue-collar families. We had a strong motivation to succeed. They’re not trying to switch social strata. I’m seeing a lot of people keeping with the status quo. The job is not the most important thing for them. Personal time, time dedicated to friends, is. They know they have to get a job so they go get a job. They take it seriously, but not that seriously. They’re looking for the finer things in life. Now, I’m not saying this is the case in all situations.
A Millennial’s Personal Finances
Natalie Alatriste, 26
Education: Communications degree from Florida International University
Job: Account executive, rbb Communications, Coral Gables
Residence: Formerly at her parents’ home in Kendall, she now lives in Coral Gables in an 850-sq.-ft., one-bedroom, 1½ bath apartment.
Rent: $1,750, split with her boyfriend
Car Payment: $315 a month
Car Insurance: $160 a month
Student Debt: $130 a month ($20,000 total)
Health Insurance: Covered 100% by employer
Savings: Sometimes $100 to $200 from her paycheck
Main Entertainment: Trips to Orlando, where she and her boyfriend have Disney and Universal annual passes. The Universal pass cost Alatriste $250, and the Disney pass is $50 per month. Then there’s lodging and food while there.
Quote: The apartment, she says, is “definitely a step up from living with my parents and driving to Kendall every day. I really hated the two-hour-plus commute I would have to do per day.”
Millennials have different attitudes toward work than previous generations.
The Real Story:
In many ways, Millennials do approach work differently, with stronger desires for a work/life balance and an expectation that they are likely to change jobs much more frequently than previous generations as they build careers.