The Student Perspective on Jobs in America

Almost 2 million college graduates were unemployed in 2009, but future graduates might have better prospects under the $447 billion American Jobs Act proposed by President Barack Obama.

In his address to Congress, President Obama stated that new jobs, including green jobs, would be created. College graduates might be able to land jobs within small businesses as well as teaching jobs.

“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple:  to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working,” Obama said. “It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans and more jobs for long-term unemployed.”

Mary Brown, a senior majoring in psychology at Howard University, said that Obama’s speech touched on important issues and that the creation of new jobs would help “to get the economy, the country, the citizens back to a place they could feel comfortable.”

“We always expect for there to be something on the other side regardless and that is usually why we attend colleges and trade schools,” Brown said. “I want to know that I am secured after I graduate.”

Enrique Lopezlira, a Ph.D., candidate at Howard University and professor of macroeconomics, thinks the outlook for 2012 graduates is dismal.

“It is not very optimistic,” Lopezlira said. “The recession has affected the youth hugely, not just in the United States but globally.” It is not so much that companies are laying off employees, Lopezlira said. They are not “hiring fast enough in a non-recession period, so there is a lot more competition for jobs.”

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics data, the unemployment rate stood at 9.1 percent as of August 2011 for those ages 16 and older. In 2009 and 2010, it was unchanged at 9.5 percent. “I definitely think we are overlooked now and then,” Brown said.

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2011 college graduates spent more time searching for jobs than did the previous year’s graduates.

“I think because of the difficulty of the economy right now it is going to be hard to focus on this graduate group of student workers or soon-to-be workers,” said Alexis James, a senior majoring in English at Howard. “If there aren’t jobs out there already for the people already looking, there is definitely not going to be jobs for us college students,”

As alternatives, students have been joining the Teach for America program or the Peace Corps. In 2010, Teach for America received 46,000 applicants, Kris Hintz, career counselor, stated in an article. Of this number, 4,500 applicants were placed throughout the country. Within the same group of applicants, 20 percent of Spelman College’s graduating class applied to the program. In 2009, TFA had 35,000 applicants, up from 25,000 the previous year.

Brown will be one of next year’s applicants as she plans to be part of Teach for America or a teaching fellow. James will be attending law school after graduation, and her top picks are University of Virginia and William and Mary.

“Any young person looking to go into the job market has to work twice as hard as other generations,” Lopezlira said.

“If you are a senior and you haven’t started doing any networking, you are really behind the ball,” he warned. “Students should really come with a plan from year one.”