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May 17, 2013

Area schools: Grads face fierce job hunt

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Hundreds of seniors at four area colleges are graduating this month, and college officials said many factors play into their employment success in the world of work ahead.

“Current employment forecasts for graduates range from bleak to bright, so students are encouraged not to be affected by what they hear,” Teresa DiMagno, assistant dean of academic advising and experiential learning at Hartwick College in Oneonta. “Rather, they should use all of the services at their disposal, including career centers, alumni groups, employment agencies, professional organizations, and social media sites.”

Hartwick College and the State University College of Technology at Delhi will have commencement ceremonies May 25. The State University College at Oneonta commencement is Saturday, and the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill commencement was Saturday, May 11.

Local college officials said internships, experiential learning and specific applied or academic courses are among programs that give their graduates valuable preparation for employment opportunities.

However, new college graduates face a downbeat labor market, the Associated Press reported. The unemployment rate for workers under age 25 with at least a bachelor’s degree has averaged 8.2 percent, compared to 5.4 percent in 2007.

The government’s April jobs report showed a decline in average weekly hours worked, the AP reported, and much of the growth was in predominantly low-wage sectors such as food services and retail trade.

“For all 2013 college graduates, employment prospects and outcomes will depend upon a number of factors, such as the number and kind of positions sought, geographic location, demand, and interview preparation,” DiMagno said in an email. “Other factors include the number and kind of job search methods used and student persistence in seeking and following through on leads.”

At SUNY Oneonta, more than half of seniors participating in a survey indicated they would be looking for work after graduation.

SUNY Oneonta launched its online 2013 Final Destination Survey on Friday, May 10, to survey December, May and August graduates on their primary post-graduation goals, according to Amy Benedict-Augustine, director of the Career Development Center. As of Wednesday morning, about 550 or a third of the graduating class had responded, she said.

According to replies, 64 percent report employment as their primary plan; 33 percent planned to continue their education; 1 percent will do volunteer work; and less than 1 percent either will join the military or start or care for family.

Of students indicating they plan to continue their education, 47 percent have been accepted into a full-time graduate program and 6 percent have been accepted into a part-time graduate program, Benedict-Augustine reported in an email.

Many students will begin their job searches after graduation, Benedict-Augustine, said, and career development staff will be available to communicate with them by telephone or Skype after they leave the area.

“We encourage students to use a variety of methods for their job search with a particular emphasis on networking,” she said. Options include the SUNY Oneonta Alumni Association Group on LinkedIn or through professional associations that match their interests, she said.

DragonLink, the college’s online career management system, offers full-time job listings locally, nationally, and internationally.

“We also suggest to students that they be as flexible as possible about geographic location, job title, starting salary, etc., and even consider internships as they move into the world of work,” Benedict-Augustine said.

The economy has created 6.8 million private-sector jobs during the past 38 months, but nearly 12 million remain unemployed, the AP reported. Though unemployment has hit across demographic groups, the hardest hit have been young workers, workers with low levels of education, and racial and ethnic minorities, according to AP, and the average unemployment rate in the first quarter of this year was 7.7 percent.

SUNY Delhi’s niche programs position graduates well for the job market, Kimberly MacLeod, director of communications, said in an email.

“Experience is the key,” MacLeod said. “We offer over 500 internship opportunities that give students real-world experience and connect them with potential employers.”

For example, all 17 graduates of the college’s construction technology program anticipate having jobs immediately after graduation, she said. Many of them were hired as the result of internships required as part of earning their degree at SUNY Delhi.

As is typically the case with Hartwick graduates, within a year’s time, between 25 percent 30 percent will pursue graduate school and a little more than 50 percent will be employed, DiMagno said. The remainder will pursue other avenues, such as Teach for America, the Peace Corps, entrepreneurial ventures and travel, she said.

Hartwick graduates have the advantage of a college education that stresses experiential learning through internships, research, and off-campus coursework, DiMagno said. The resumes of the class of 2013 reflect an array of curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences that will be invaluable as they pursue postgraduate plans, she said.