Recent Georgia Regents University graduate Layla Boyd may have just closed her college chapter, but she is still waiting to turn the next page on her career.
Before receiving her diploma less than two weeks ago, the mother of three sent more than half a dozen applications to local hospitals and healthcare centers, trying to put her new bachelor’s degree in social work to use. Boyd said she’s had one callback, and that was to inform her that she didn’t land the job.
“They want you to have your master’s,” said Boyd, whose plans include graduate school. “A bachelor’s is like getting your high school diploma. I’m just ready to get out there.”
Boyd, who also has an internship under her belt, said she’s been searching for work in her field for two months. If something doesn’t come through soon, she’s prepared to start calling employers directly and adjust her résumé.
“It’s been disheartening because I feel like with the online process, they’re not really getting who I am,” she said. “I just feel like it’s so disconnected.”
Boyd was one of about 1,100 graduates from GRU on May 9. Her plight in finding work is all too familiar for recent college graduates, according to experts.
“We are seeing things still holding a conservative and competitive pattern for the entry-level market,” said Julie Goley, GRU’s director of career services. “We still find the bulk of positions in the CSRA are either non-degree required or require a degree and more experience than what a typical graduate would come out with.”
Although the national unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent this April compared to 7.5 percent in April 2013, the jobless figure for workers younger than 25 was more than twice as high at 14.5 percent in March, according to data complied by economists and researchers with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.
The May report examined the labor market confronted by high school and college graduates, ranging in age from 17 to 24, who are not pursuing further education. It largely blamed the fallout from the latest recession for the dim job outlook seen by young adults. In 2007, students graduating college found an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent and an underemployment rate of 9.6 percent. Those statistics now register at 8.5 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively.
The report cited a weak demand for goods and services, and not graduates’ education or skills, as the reason employers aren’t hiring. Hourly wages of college graduates also have dropped to $16.99 from a high of $18.55 in 2001.
In both Georgia and metro Augusta, the latest unemployment figures are hovering slightly higher than the national average at 7 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.
Many GRU graduates are underemployed – in a job seen as insufficient or inadequate – as they seek degree-related work, Goley said. “Our entry-level postings are down about 10 percent from this time last year, making the competition very tight for any opportunities.”
Goley underscored the importance of internships and other on-the-job learning opportunities to help students stand apart from their counterparts as they often compete for the same job.
Another variant of success in post-graduation employment is the type of field in which students earned a degree.
Economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found in January that graduates who majored in technical, specialized areas, like engineering and math, as well as growing fields, including education and healthcare, fare better than those in more general sectors, such as leisure and hospitality, communications, liberal arts and business.
“The job-growth number does signify that there are jobs,” said Rajeev Dhawan, the director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University. “However, the jobs are in areas in which there has traditionally been shortages, which is anything related to technology and healthcare.
“The construction industry is picking up,” he continued, “so there is more demand over there for engineers, architects and builders. Otherwise, it’s kind of like a mixed-market for people.”
Goley said GRU students majoring in business, technology and areas of allied health and health sciences are having the most luck.
Haley Barker, 22, graduated from GRU having already accepted a nursing job offer at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. Barker, whose bachelor’s degree is in science and nursing, said the job was the first she’d applied for and she expects to start working in June as soon as she passes boards.
Barker said just 4 percent of nurses are unemployed, adding that there’s always a demand in her field.
“Even if I hadn’t (gotten the job) right away, I felt comfortable that there would come another hiring surge,” she said.
J.J. Scalise, another GRU graduate, hasn’t been so fortunate. Scalise just earned his master’s degree in history but hasn’t yet seen his hard work pay off.
Scalise, who formerly worked for a property management company, returned to school to pursue a second career and his passion: teaching. For nearly a year, he has applied to work as a social studies teacher in high schools locally and in surrounding counties.
Scalise said he’s also tried to get a substitute position but none have opened up.
“They’re just not hiring positions,” he said. “They’re eliminating positions.”