Col­lege stu­dents pivot in job mar­ket

In­tern­ships, em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties dis­solved

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Natal­lie St. Onge, Mar­got Arm­bruster and Devi Shas­tri Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TODAY NET­WORK Laura Schulte of the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel con­trib­uted to this re­port.

For Hannah Ar­buckle, a sum­mer in­tern­ship fo­cused on help­ing peo­ple cul­ti­vate wild foods at the Bad River Reser­va­tion was an op­por­tu­nity to help the tribe she be­longs to.

It was also the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son se­nior’s chance to com­plete her last re­quire­ment for grad­u­a­tion.

But when she called her su­per­vi­sor at the reser­va­tion to ask whether her in­tern­ship was still hap­pen­ing, Ar­buckle learned the pro­gram had been can­celed.

“They re­sponded that they weren’t go­ing to try and make it work,” said Ar­buckle, a com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­men­tal so­ci­ol­ogy ma­jor.

She is not alone. Many stu­dents who se­cured a job or in­tern­ship be­fore the coro­n­avirus pan­demic ar­rived in the United States have been deal­ing with de­layed start dates — or have seen their po­si­tions re­scinded al­to­gether.

“From that March to May pe­riod, we saw a pretty sig­nif­i­cant drop in the num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents and for grad­u­at­ing stu­dents,” said Re­bakah Paré, ex­ec­u­tive head of ca­reer services at UW-Madi­son’s Col­lege of Let­ters and Science.

Ar­buckle, though dis­ap­pointed, restarted her search.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties listed on UW-Madi­son’s on­line jobs page were scarce. The few jobs that were open were very com­pet­i­tive. She ap­plied to a hand­ful of in­tern­ships and jobs for the sum­mer and fall, but the process has been slow.

Un­sure whether she’d find an­other in­tern­ship, she en­rolled in an on­line class to make up for the in­tern­ship she lost in March — a re­quire­ment for her cer­tifi­cate pro­gram in food sys­tems.

It took her three months to se­cure a new in­tern­ship work­ing for the Great Lakes In­dian Fish and Wildlife Com­mis­sion, lo­cated on the Bad River Reser­va­tion.

With half of the sum­mer al­ready gone, she got to work col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion on wild rice pro­duc­tion.

“I feel like I got to UW-Madi­son and I grad­u­ated, and felt like I did all the right things, but then it was like noth­ing I did or was do­ing once the coro­n­avirus hit was right,” Ar­buckle said.

Like Ar­buckle, Daniel Ledin, a junior study­ing po­lit­i­cal science at UW-Madi­son, ap­plied for nu­mer­ous sum­mer in­tern­ships at gov­ern­men­tal of­fices and non­prof­its across the state. He said most de­layed their hir­ing de­ci­sions,

only to later can­cel all their sum­mer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ledin reached out to his ad­vis­ers in the po­lit­i­cal science depart­ment. He scoured the in­ter­net for post­ings.

In June, he started work­ing re­motely as a part-time, un­paid in­tern for State Trea­surer Sarah Godlewski’s cam­paign office. He counted him­self lucky, since he’d hoped to work on a cam­paign this sum­mer.

The eco­nomic tur­moil has hit all sorts of pro­fes­sion­als, from those with lengthy ca­reers un­der their belts to those just try­ing to get started.

Since March 15, when busi­nesses be­gan shut­ting down, more than 3.76 mil­lion weekly claims have been re­ceived by the Depart­ment of Work­force De­vel­op­ment and nearly 3.2 mil­lion of those had been paid out through June 27, state data shows.

At Mil­wau­kee Area Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, stu­dents are be­ing told to cast a wide net.

Tech­ni­cal col­leges pre­pare stu­dents to fill cur­rent open­ings in the lo­cal job mar­ket. But more stu­dents have been forced to find jobs out­side of their de­gree pro­grams with the hope of gain­ing skills they can use in the fu­ture.

“Stu­dents across the board were kind of frozen,” said Jenny McGil­li­gan, MATC’s di­rec­tor of stu­dent em­ploy­ment, ca­reer and trans­fer.

Still, some are mak­ing it work. When Bene­dicto Azcueta, 37, started his job hunt, he ex­pected he’d work for a tech­nol­ogy firm. But af­ter he grad­u­ated from the IT net­work­ing spe­cial­ist pro­gram last spring, Ad­vo­cate Aurora Health was the first to put his skills to use.

He ac­knowl­edged there are peo­ple who can’t be as ag­gres­sive in their job search. Many of his peers have strug­gled, es­pe­cially those who have chil­dren to care for or other cir­cum­stances that have kept them from ap­ply­ing in earnest. His choice of de­gree also helped, he said.

“There’s a lot of jobs for IT in Mil­wau­kee,” he said.

Paré and McGil­li­gan said the job hunt in 2020 will re­quire more flex­i­bil­ity and be more com­pet­i­tive than be­fore the pan­demic.

De­spite stu­dents’ en­thu­si­asm, some of the po­si­tions they wanted no longer ex­ist in the coro­n­avirus world.

For Nateya Tay­lor, a Carthage Col­lege grad­u­ate who stud­ied crim­i­nal jus­tice and Span­ish, the job hunt has been dif­fi­cult. Tay­lor con­ducted mul­ti­ple in­for­ma­tional in­ter­views over Zoom but heard at the close of each ses­sion that the com­pany didn’t ac­tu­ally have any open­ings.

Many of her peers are head­ing to grad school, de­lay­ing a job search. But that’s not an op­tion for Tay­lor.

“I did ap­ply to grad school for this up­com­ing fall and I was ac­cepted, but be­cause of fi­nan­cial rea­sons, I wasn’t able to at­tend this fall,” she said.

Some of her friends have found jobs in high-de­mand ca­reers like nurs­ing. Mean­while, ca­reer ad­vis­ers have said stu­dents have been find­ing work in fields such as soft­ware de­vel­op­ment and tech­nol­ogy, teach­ing, health care, man­u­fac­tur­ing, re­search and IT.

For now, Tay­lor is pre­par­ing a new set of grad school ap­pli­ca­tions for next school year, hop­ing to get a bet­ter fi­nan­cial aid pack­age.

“I’m still try­ing to find some­thing that meets my needs,” she said.


Hannah Ar­buckle’s orig­i­nal in­tern­ship was can­celed. She restarted her search and landed a new in­tern­ship work­ing for the Great Lakes In­dian Fish and Wildlife Com­mis­sion, lo­cated on the Bad River Reser­va­tion.


Nateya Tay­lor, a Carthage Col­lege grad­u­ate who stud­ied crim­i­nal jus­tice and Span­ish, is pre­par­ing grad school ap­pli­ca­tions.

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