College graduation means time to find jobsAs Jamestown College and Valley City (N.D.) State University seniors prepare for graduation this week and next week respectively, their role in society will soon make that daunting turn from student to employee. For graduates all over the U.S., entering into the real world means entering into a March national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. But those remaining here in North Dakota look to benefit from the country’s best state unemployment rate, which was at 3.8 percent in March.
As Jamestown College and Valley City (N.D.) State University seniors prepare for graduation this week and next week respectively, their role in society will soon make that daunting turn from student to employee.
For graduates all over the U.S., entering into the real world means entering into a March national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. But those remaining here in North Dakota look to benefit from the country’s best state unemployment rate, which was at 3.8 percent in March.
“When you look at the economy as a whole, North Dakota really hasn’t been hit too hard by the downturn,” said Kelly Bossert, customer service manager at Job Service North Dakota in Jamestown.
Bossert said what makes staying in the state attractive is the relatively low cost of living in addition to the number of opportunities, and not just in the Oil Patch.
“There are a lot of opportunities all over the state and the good thing about being here (in North Dakota) is that you have less people fighting for them,” he said.
In Stutsman County alone over the past 12 months, more than 400 jobs have become available, according to a report published by Job Service North Dakota in April.
Nearly 200 Jamestown College students will earn degrees at commencement Saturday. Finding a job should prove successful for the overwhelming majority of them if JC’s job placement rate continues as it has in years past.
“Graduates have found jobs at a rate of 100 percent and 98 percent in 2010 and 2011 respectively,” according to the JC career services website.
A brief survey regarding job placement for Saturday’s graduates was conducted by Shelley Mansavage, director of JC career services, of which she said results were positive.
“According to the responses I received, computer-related majors, accounting and nursing majors have been finding jobs easily,” she said.
The majority of graduates who have already found jobs are remaining in North Dakota or have taken offers in the Minneapolis area, Mansavage said.
Results from a complete job placement survey of Saturday’s grads will be finalized in December.
One soon-to-be JC graduate has already been working full time in Jamestown for the past five months.
Heather Cellmer, who will graduate Saturday with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, was offered a customer service representative position in December with Gate City Bank in Jamestown.
“I always knew I wanted to stay in the area so it worked out really well that I was offered the full-time position here,” she said.
Cellmer said many of her close friends and classmates at JC who have already been applying for positions have been finding success in the North Dakota job market as well.
Valley City State University
About 200 VCSU students will earn degrees at commencement May 12. Their outlook on jobs is bright as well if VSCU’s job placement rate for 2010 and 2011 grads continues at 90 percent.
Available jobs in Barnes County are out there for the taking, according to Bobbie Miller, customer service manager of Job Services North Dakota of Valley City.
“Just as of right now there are about 150 listings within Barnes County for a variety of jobs,” she said. “There are plenty of opportunities here in North Dakota for graduates.”
In Barnes County over the past 12 months, nearly 250 jobs have become available, according to the April Job Service North Dakota report.
The job market here has influenced those coming from out of state for college to stay here in North Dakota for employment, said Marcia Foss, director of career services and internships at VCSU.
“Traditionally we have a lot of students from North Dakota who stay here for work after graduation, but there are pockets of out-of-state students, many from Minnesota, who we have been really proud to see remaining in our state to find work,” she said.
One of those out-of-staters is senior business administration major Travis Pierce, who is originally from Alaska. Pierce, who spent three days a week at an internship in Fargo this semester, said he began his job search in January.
“There have been some ups and downs in the process, but overall it’s been going pretty well,” he said.
Pierce said he has had job offers in the western part of the state, but due to the housing shortage he has decided to limit his search to areas in the east.
“I’m looking at opportunities in Fargo a lot more now because there seems to be good potential there and the housing situation appears to be much better,” he said.
A closer look
As for specifically what jobs are currently popular, Foss said she has been amazed at the demand for teachers.
“Right now I am seeing a lot of school districts in western North Dakota really looking hard for teachers for next year, which is unusual to be taking place this early in the process,” she said.
VCSU typically awards about half of its degrees to education majors, Foss said.
“I’m not sure if they’re losing teachers because of the oil industry or what exactly is taking place out there, but these are some competitive salaries that are being offered for those teaching jobs,” she said.
Salaries are often a driver for the type of work graduates seek out, Bossert said, but added that it will be important for graduates to be realistic about the kind of salary they can expect at their first job.
“Not everybody starts at $50,000 per year,” he said. “That’s why we try to stress to people about really studying labor market information and knowing the wages for certain jobs.”
When asked about advice for these JC and VCSU graduates, Bossert, Foss and Miller offered up the following:
*Bossert — “Match up the skills you have to the jobs you are applying for. That’s what makes you stand out.”
*Foss — “Be open to some things you haven’t thought about — perhaps a company or a location that never entered your mind. Keep your options open because you don’t know where that first job is going to lead you.”
*Miller —“Market yourself by using all of your online resources and posting your résumé in as many places as you can. You have to be able to market yourself.”
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org