For the past few years, college graduates have faced a tough decision: Enter a
job market in which unemployment was persistently high or stay in school to
pursue a graduate degree with the hope the economy would rebound.
Even Sharon H. Lee, who gave the keynote address at last month's Wilkes University commencement, congratulated graduates on their achievement but offered condolences to them for entering such an awful job market.
While many graduates likely agreed with her point of view, for the first time in at least three years some data show the situation is looking brighter.
According to The Associated Press, the unemployment rate for college grads 24 or younger has been dropping.
From January through April, it averaged 7.2 percent. Comparable rates for 2011 and 2010 were 9.1 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.
It's difficult to tell how many of the 4,000 graduates of 14 colleges and universities in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties have landed a job, but interviews with students and school officials showed that graduates were better prepared this year after witnessing the hardships experienced by recent classes.
Some students, having heard or seen how difficult it was for their predecessors to find a job in their field -- or any job -- set out to make themselves more marketable and attractive to potential employers.
"I put a little extra effort forth," said Devin Albrecht, who graduated in May with a mechanical engineering degree from Wilkes. "I gave it everything I had. The odds were against me but I used hard work and diligence. I was really looking for a job since I was a freshman."
Internships can help
Internships, workshops and volunteering are common paths looking for an edge in the work force.
"We always encourage students to participate in internships," said Bernie Rushmere, director of The Insalaco Center for Career Development at Misericordia University in Dallas Township.
A study released recently by Boston-based Millennial Branding showed 91 percent of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before they graduate college.
"The expectation that having an internship can lead to a job no longer exists," said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. "Students should strive to have as many internships as possible before graduation and not rely on a single employer for a job offer."
Albrecht landed a position at Unison Engine Components in Wilkes-Barre. He spent two semesters interning there and credits that experience for helping to secure his engineering job.
"Absolutely no doubt in my mind, without the internships I wouldn't be working here," Albrecht, of Shavertown, said. He said he applied for jobs in his field at two area companies and was offered jobs at each. The internship, he said, added valuable experience to his resume.
Natasha Jankowsky, a Trucksville resident who earned her master's of physical therapy degree from Misericordia last month, did internships at three separate places over the past two years and landed a job at one of them, Pro Rehabilitation in Hanover Township.
She said for her the internships were helpful but it was her chosen field that really made the difference in her ability to get a job. Unlike other
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