BLS Statistics say grads are facing increasing risk of being ‘underemployed’

Many students are unable to find work after graduation. (Photo Illustration by Vail Moshiri | The Collegian)

A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a significant difference between the unemployment rates for the country and young people. Across the country, unemployment is approximately 6.7 percent, which is considerably lower than in 2009 when 9.9 percent of all Americans were unemployed.

For those 25 years old and younger, the current unemployment rate sits at 14.5 percent. For those with college degrees, it is 8.5 percent compared to last year’s 8.6.

With tens of thousands of dollars spent on higher education, hundreds of hours studying in and out of class, and years spent at the university, pursuing a degree is an big investment.

It’s because of this that every student has to ask themselves whether or not pursuing a degree will pay off. Statistically, for the vast majority of American college graduates it will, though there are a few exceptions.

College graduate underemployment is high at 16.8 percent, a jump from 2008’s 10.7 percent. Graduate underemployment is the term for people with degrees are working either part-time or lower wage jobs.

Despite all of this, labor trends have slowly but gradually been improving for the job market as a whole since the recession. College students are being forced to face an increasingly competitive job hunt as they transition from the university life into a less-than ideal postrecession job market.

Jessica Thomas, talent acquisitions specialist for GTM Sportswear, stresses the importance of being well-rounded, teachable and experienced when employers are look for new hires.

“Our main thing is culture fit, coming out of college most people don’t have the most hands on experience but that’s okay; people can be trained at that point,” Thomas said. “Some of the big things we look for are if they have worked and been involved on campus, clubs, fraternities or sororities and work experience.”

According to Thomas, employers do understand that most students only have limited experience, but internships and basic time spend in a work environment for your field is strongly recommended for when hiring season comes around.

“I think internships, no matter what form they come in – unpaid or paid – are great if that’s the field you’re going in to,” Thomas said. “For an employer, it’s definitely a plus.”

K-State provides a number of resources that can help give students the professional edge they are looking for, including departments like Career and Employment Services and Professional Advantage program.

Kerri Day Keller, director of CES, said the top three things K-State students can do to help themselves while in school include maintaining an above average GPA, gaining relevant experience through internships and taking advantage of CES workshops and services.

“(CES) provides career advising, training, employment connections and resources for K-State students and graduates,” Keller said.

Outside of CES, the College provides a unique, hands-on program with Professional Advantage, which provides students with direct connections to major companies Olivia Law-DelRosso, director of Professional Advantage, said.

The majority of the program’s work focused on teaching students how to interview and network straight by bringing recruiters and executives to campus, who often hire the students they meet and work with in Professional Advantage.

“Through talking to my students, a high number of them find value in meeting professionals, where many of them get internships with those companies that they meet,” Law-DelRosso said.

According to Law-Delrosso, the process of building a professional career starts the moment a student walks onto campus.

“Students now need to start preparing for their career when they are freshmen,” she said. “It’s really important to start early, since you’re starting to build your resume from day one. Academics are really important, but you also have to be involved on campus with things like greek life, clubs and volunteer work.”

Activities like studying abroad and getting to know your professors personally can open up a wide variety of connections that help students find jobs outside of traditional sources.

For Law-DelRosso, the largest factor influencing students resume is experience. With the number of college graduates growing every year, simply having a degree may not be quite enough to stand out unless you have experience to prove yourself as valuable to a company.

“Companies want to see involvement and leadership along the side of good grades, as well as an internship to show you have some work experience,” Law-DelRosso said.