The new reality for graduates
June 13, 2013
Another graduation ceremony has come and gone with a new crop of graduates ready to move on to other things. Congratulations to you. I wish you well, and hope you meet your goals. That may mean college, trade school, or starting a career. Choices you make now will affect your future prospects.
Today's graduates have more challenges ahead than many of their predecessors. The economy is a major factor in your short term choices. Part time and temporary employment is limited with more competition. Also, the Affordable Health Care Act is causing employers to shift their hiring practices. Employees can't afford to be choosy anymore.
Sadly, finding that job is becoming more difficult. Unemployment is supposedly declining, which is good news. The bad news is that the rate is dropping due to the chronically unemployed dropping from the rolls, and from those finding only part-time work because employers aren't certain what to expect next year. The unemployment for those 18-25 years old is still at over 15 percent. Competition for ANY job is fierce.
If you are going on to college, choose a major wisely. There are jobs out there for engineers, research scientists, and IT specialists —Byzantine art studies not so much. Pick a major that makes you employable. Take a course in Constitutional history, preferably from a professor who is not a reconstructionist. If you don't understand how our government is supposed to work, as opposed to how it is now, you will become an easily led "sheep" subject to the whims of the leadership of the day.
Trade school is another option. There is a shift in the U.S. economy taking place to a service-based economy. While many of the new ideas are developed at home, more and more of the manufacturing needs of the country are taking place overseas. This is due to increased taxes, regulations, and labor costs in the U.S. I don't see this trend changing.
This places more emphasis on jobs that are localized and can't be easily exported. This means the job demands will be in areas like trucking and transport, plumbing, electricians, computer technicians and mechanics. Compensation for these trades is generally higher than those of a college graduate due simply to demand. For example, jobs for truck drivers in the oil boom areas of the Dakotas are advertised at starting at $80,000 per year. It may not be the most pleasant place to live but with that kind of starting wage you can go about anywhere you want on your days off.
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Also, closer to home, mines all over Nevada are hiring. They offer competitive wages and good benefits. They are willing to pay for training for the right people, those with a good work ethic and a willingness to learn. That is the one bright spot in Nevada's employment picture.
Stay out of debt. I know education is expensive but you will be better off to sit out a semester, assuming you are employed of course, to save enough to go back to school again. It makes no sense economically to borrow huge amounts of money to get a college degree. That debt will hang around your neck for a long time. Long ago I took out a student loan to finish my last semester of school since I had an internship obligation and couldn't work. It took me eight years to pay that one semester off. Imagine how long it would take to pay off four years of school.
On that subject, some of my kid's college classmates would take out a student loan to buy a snowmobile. Talk about abusing the system! Contrast that with my youngest, from whom I just bought a new(er) truck to replace the one he drove for eight years. It got 10 mpg downhill. I helped on the loan, and that is his only debt after two years of school. He knows if he misses a payment I will be driving the newer truck and he gets my old one bearing the results of several hundred tons of hay, scars from child driving lessons and the result of a cow tied to the bumper on a too long rope.
Well, I digressed a little there. The point I am trying to make is, be smart about what you do. If you go directly to work, make sure your work ethic is up to snuff. If you plan to attend school, make sure you learn employable skills … And good luck.
Tom Riggins' column appears every other Friday.