Helping students find work
Local college helps to make students marketable
By the numbers
Full-time employment percentage in Florida for 2008-09 undergraduates of state's universities
ESTERO — Edison State College student Herbert Segura doesn’t graduate for another two years, but he already is exploring the professional job market.
When he starts applying for jobs in six months to a year, he said he knows some employers might set his resume aside until he has a degree, but he isn’t taking any chances after reading the writing on the wall about the job market.
“At least here, the way things are going, I want to start early,” said Segura, 24, a marketing major who wants to work for a sports team when he graduates.
Segura is part of a generation of college students and graduates who are increasingly learning that to compete — especially with a pool of unemployed workers who have long been in the labor market — they have to start looking earlier, marketing themselves harder and casting their nets farther.
Reid Lennertz, director of Career Services at Florida Gulf Coast University in Estero, tries to remind students it typically takes three to six months from the start of a job search to secure a job.
“My impression — and this is anecdotal — is that the message is starting to get to students, in that they are coming in earlier than I have seen them; I’ve been here 10 years,” Lennertz said. “There’s obviously been a lot in the media about how challenging the job market is, and I think that’s reaching the students.”
Still, public higher education institutions in the area have been able to report strong local hiring figures among graduates and are predicting an improved labor market for graduates.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the hiring of recent graduates increased in 2010 by a modest 5.3 percent, following a precipitous drop of 21.6 percent fewer 2009 graduates hired during that year.
A 2011 job outlook report by the association predicts an increase of 13.5 percent over 2010 hiring levels for recent graduates. It is welcome news to local educators who have been scrambling for the past three years to keep their graduates ahead of the drooping curve that has been the job market.
“In my estimation, from everything I’ve seen, the job market will be better this year than anyone would have predicted in the last 1.5 to two years,” said Bill Roshon, Edison’s district dean of professional and technical studies. “In our region this year, we’ll need about 450 nurses; in my discussions with our health-care community it’s not just nurses. And, it’s not just health professions; it’s all over the board.”
Meanwhile, the economic downturn that has spelled disaster for many Southwest Floridians may have created an opening for some recent graduates.
“We all recognize the fact that we have lost a lot of talent in Southwest Florida,” Roshon said. “A lot of those folks left the area and went to find jobs in other places, so in the next few years we’re going to be in rebuilding mode. I think we’re really going to see the recent graduates absorbed at the same rate as many of the people who have been out there looking for jobs over the last year-and-a-half.”
Both Edison and FGCU say they are in the business of offering degrees in high-growth, in-demand occupations.
Edison recently completed construction of a new nursing building that gives students of nursing, as well as radiological and cardiopulmonary sciences, experience in a hospital-like setting. The college also has increased its four-year education degrees to include middle grade education — an area of increasing need identified by statewide educators.
The emphasis on growth fields shows, said Kevin Kennedy, Edison’s coordinator for Career Services.
By the numbers
Continuing education percentage in Florida for 2008-09 undergraduates of state's universities
Of 17 May graduates who hold education degrees, 14 are employed, and all 14 of the college’s May nursing graduates have jobs, Kennedy said.
FGCU participates in a more formal program through the state for tracking the employment and ongoing education of its graduates within Florida, and has consistently posted some of the more promising numbers among its peers in the 11-member state university system.
For graduates from the 2008-09 school year — the most recent numbers available — 54 percent of FGCU bachelor’s degree holders were employed full-time in Florida by the last quarter of 2009, and another 21 percent were continuing their education in Florida. Among its peers, FGCU tied with the University of North Florida for the most undergraduates from 2008-09 employed full-time in Florida.
The statewide averages showed 44 percent of bachelor’s degree graduates fully employed within the state, and 21 percent pursuing more education in the state.
The numbers only represent what graduates are doing in Florida because the data comes from information provided by Florida employers and businesses. However, they offer a snapshot of how FGCU is keeping up with the other public institutions around the state.
And from full-time employment levels to full-time wages reported for graduates (an average of $9,342 per quarter for FGCU graduates, compared to $9,139 for the rest of the state), FGCU is keeping pace, and more often than not, outpacing others.
“There’s probably a number of factors that contribute to that — the types of programs FGCU has is aligned with workforce needs, so when our graduates graduate, there’s a need for teachers and nurses and physical therapists,” Lennertz said.
Erik Jones, 24, a marketing major who graduated in December, credits the FGCU Career Services staff with helping him land on his feet after graduation. Jones has been working for a Minnesota-based company that distributes industrial and construction supplies.
Jones works at the company Fastenol’s Fort Myers and Naples offices in sales support, hoping to move up to the ranks of sales representative eventually.
By the numbers
Quarterly wages in Florida for 2008-09 undergraduates of state's universities
He said he was grateful just to find a job in a down economy, but enjoys working in industrial sales. Even after two marketing internships, Jones said he was planning on waiting until after graduation to start his job search, but his girlfriend encouraged him to attend an FGCU career fair in September that launched an almost three-month interview process.
It might sound like a marketing pitch coming from a marketing major, but Jones said he has one simple piece of advice for students starting a job search: “First of all, I would tell them to definitely use career development services.”
“I had seen career development services there (on campus), but I didn’t really know what they do,” Jones said. “I said, ‘Ah, whatever. I don’t really need them.’ But, a friend told me they were really helpful.”
For students and graduates like Jones, the help that on-campus advisers can give starts from the simple — don’t rely on job sites like Monster.com and Career Builder alone — to the more finite aspects of conducting mock interviews. Staff members in Career Services — three on a campus of 12,000 — help students polish resumes, research the types of jobs they are interested in and choose a major that will put them on track to their dream career.
Part of the battle, though, is just getting students in the door so they know what kind of help is available to them.
Liz Loredo, the marketing and events coordinator at FGCU’s Career Services, said one of the most helpful ways of reaching students is simply going to their classes and talking to a captive audience.
Her office’s reach into the FGCU campus community is deep, though. Career Services director Lennertz said surveys show roughly 70 percent of all students use Career Services at some point in their college career.
But typically, Loredo said, it goes back to those students who take some initiative. While her office offers a helping hand, students more often are figuring out on their own that their success securing a job rests on them.
“I think a lot of students realize that the best way to make a connection or to gain those professional skills while in undergrad is to go ahead and start building your resume by getting an internship,” Loredo said. “ ... I think a lot of them are realizing they will be a lot more competitive if they have at least some professional experience on their resume.”