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Numbers show signs of students struggle into work force

Eighteen months ago, Roselle Zigler, a 2008 USF graduate, stood inside a young professionals’ networking event. But her nametag did not read Roselle, it read ‘needs a job.’

“I applied anywhere and everywhere,” Zigler said. “Now, I work for Yale Lift Truck of Florida … It wasn’t necessarily about applying online; it was about who I knew.”

From May through August, national unemployment rates stood at 9.5 to 9.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Florida bears an 11.5 percent unemployment rate, as of July.

In August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 4.6 percent of Americans over the age of 25 with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed.

USF graduates are not immune to current circumstances.

For Zigler, after graduating with a degree in communications, her six-month job search included

traveling from Florida to North Carolina and back again. Five days after moving north, the job she had lined up was taken.

Alfonso Johnson, age 39, graduated from USF in spring 2010, after losing his truck-driving job. He chose to complete his undergraduate degree ian general business and administration, which he began eight years ago.

“Under normal circumstances, I always had options,” Johnson said. “I’ve been to several interviews, but the market is scarce.”

Johnson said he had to file for unemployment and is searching for a job.

Drema Howard, director for the USF Career Center, said stories like Johnson’s and Zigler’s are common.

“I’ve been in the field (for) 30 years,” she said. “This (recession) is very different. We’ve seen not just cyclical changes in the workplace, where there’s ebbs and flows, but major structural changes.”

For some, more schooling is the answer. Alyssa Schmidt-Carr, a USF graduate student majoring in public health, said she knew she wanted to attend graduate school. However, after graduating from the University of Portland in May, she said she felt her “want,” had transformed into a “necessity.”

“I can’t get a job unless I do research or teach,” Schmidt-Carr said. “A lot of people expect you to have experience in some field. Teachers are being laid off. It’s a tough time to find a job.”

Howard said she sees students returning to school to take additional courses and become “competitive” in the job market.

“If you use it to postpone your job search, you’re just postponing the inevitable because eventually you’re still going to have to do a job search,” she said.

However, Howard said she predicts a more favorable job market.

“We are seeing a little bit of that second wave,” she said. “Even in a recession, even in a bad economy, employers still do hire. College students, recent graduates now, are competing with seasoned professionals.”

According to the Career Center’s Career Connections job posting service, 2,311 students received internships in 2005-06. However, that number declined to 1,489 in 2007-08. Numbers increased in 2008-09 to 2,135 and to 2,480 in 2009-10.

Despite the increase in available internships, part-time and full-time positions have each experienced downward trends. The number of part-time positions decreased from 6,219 in 2005-06 to 2,768 in 2009-10. Likewise, full-time positions decreased from 12,954 in 2005-06 to 8,061 in 2009-10.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama advocated a stimulus plan that would involve the allocation of $350 billion in federal aid toward infrastructure development, business tax write-offs and research development – a plan he predicts will create jobs and decrease the nation’s unemployment rate.

Zigler said that if students remain persistent, they will find jobs.

“A lot of (mentors) would tell me like it is, like, ‘Hey, it’s going to suck, you may need to get a retail job just to pay the bills, but it will happen for you,'” she said. “Especially right now (in the current job climate) it’s not about a resume. It’s who you know that gets you in the door. It’s what you know that gets you the job.”