UM graduates find themselves in tough job market

Published 10:33 pm Friday, May 8, 2009

Soon-to-be University of Montevallo graduate Stephanie Capps is preparing to cannonball into a shallow job pool.

The 24-year-old dietetics major hasn’t begun to pound the pavement for work, and when she does, she’s doubtful she’ll land a job she’s passionate about.

“I’m actually getting married in a week, and I’ve made out a budget for me and my fiancé to go by to be financially tight until I get a job, but I’m not going to hold my breath,” Capps said. “I’d like to get into local farming because I think in the end, no matter how bad the economy gets, we’re all gonna need food.”

Capps isn’t alone in her uncertainty as thousands of new graduates enter today’s tumultuous job market.

According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey released this week, only 19.7 percent of 2009 graduates who have applied for jobs have landed one. That compares to 26 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2007.

The survey results startle Evan Andry, 24, who has decided to continue his studies at UM, earn his master’s degree in education and achieve highly qualified teacher status. He’s a part-time football coach at Shades Valley High School in Irondale, and dreams of coaching college football for a Southeastern Conference program.

“I am going to do the fifth-year program,” Andry said. “With the economy the way it is, I have to get a highly qualified status before I actually stop going to school, which pretty much guarantees me a job.”

David Kelso, 23, considers himself one of the lucky ones. The accounting major landed a job with a Birmingham accounting firm he’s interned for since January. Others in Kelso’s intern class weren’t so lucky.

“I started looking for jobs last year because I knew how the market was going to be,” he said. “It’s brutal out there, and it’s tough to see how the economy affects company decisions.”

Other graduates appear unshaken by dire job prospects.

Katherine Williams, 23, will move to Okinawa, Japan to reunite with her husband who serves in the U.S. Air Force. The speech pathology major said she’ll likely find work as an aide until she and her husband return to the U.S. a year and half from now.

“I’m going to grad school,” Williams said. “But in my field there’s always a job, so I’m not really worried.”

Kevin Williams, not related to Katherine, isn’t sweating the job market either. The 26-year-old graphic design major’s post-graduation plans include a trip to Baltimore, Md., to visit his brother who serves in the U.S. Navy.

Williams said he won’t enter the job market straight away due to a medical condition, but he’s confident he’ll find work after he undergoes surgery later this year.

“I’m not worried right now just due to the fact that I have a degree. I should be able to find something,” he said. “It may not be exactly what I want at the time, but it will be a job.”