College seniors and recent graduates are grappling, at Drexel and across the nation, with abysmal economic prospects as the youth unemployment rate soars and job creation remains stagnant. The Steinbright Career Development Center has introduced and maintained Dragon Jobs, a website to aid seniors and recent graduates in their job search, since September 2010.
While Drexel’s Dragon Jobs program and co-op program aim to coach and assist students in the job market, a rising feeling of dissatisfaction and disillusionment is spreading across the nation, particularly resonating with the youth, as the Occupy Wall Street protests continue into their third week.
As of August 2011, the national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, but the youth unemployment rate was much higher. One out of every three young people between the ages of 20 and 29 were unemployed, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistics for 2010. Locally, Philadelphia’s youth unemployment rate is 19.4 percent.
The youth unemployment rate has the potential to have a particularly damaging effect on college graduates’ ability to repay any loans they might have taken out to pay for college. The default rate on student loans is also rising. It was 8.8 percent for the fiscal year of 2009, up from 7 percent for the previous fiscal year.
Impending loan repayment plans contribute to the pressure to find employment quickly after graduation for students. Andrew Duffy, senior assistant director for career services at the SCDC, advises graduating seniors to begin the job search as early as possible.
“Seniors and graduate students graduating this year should begin searching for opportunities now. Many employers that will be recruiting on campus only post their opportunities in the fall. … Utilizing Dragon Jobs is just one strategy students should be doing at this time of year,” Duffy said.
Drexel Dragon Jobs was officially launched in September 2010. The Dragon Jobs website is available to Drexel students and recent alumni to search for full-time and non co-op related employment opportunities. According to the SCDC, undergraduate students, graduate students and recent alumni may all utilize the Dragon Jobs system.
“We launched Dragon Jobs to provide the Drexel community with a robust system that would better serve the needs of our students, employers and staff. Dragon Jobs provides a one-stop shop where students can research companies that interview on campus, search position openings, view career fair attendees, research salary information, and view upcoming events and information session details,” Duffy said.
Since the beginning of fall term, 1,729 students and recent alumni have accessed the Dragon Jobs system.
However, on a national scale, the combination of low job prospects and expensive loan repayments are contributing, in part, to a rising youth movement expressing dismay with the current state of the economy and social structure.
“You have people who have spent over $100,000 on a college education, and the prospects for employment are nothing. Yet you have Wall Street, who just received a bailout, posting record prospects,” Daniel Kravets, a third-year political science student, said. “People are uncertain about their futures. They’re uncertain about America’s future.”
He continued, “You have this perpetual circle of self-interest going throughout congress. If you have the inability to do anything, even on mundane issues like the debt ceiling, I don’t know what it means for young people. Unless young people go to vote, their voices won’t be heard.”
Some disillusioned and frustrated young people are channeling their grievances with the political system and the financial system by participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests. Now in their third week, the protests are gaining traction in the media and having a more resounding effect. Similar protests have ignited outside of New York in cities including Boston and Chicago.
William Lukas, a second-year sociology major, is participating in the Philadelphia protests sparked by Occupy Wall Street.
Lukas attended the First General Assembly of Occupy Philadelphia. According to Lukas, “Four hundred strong marched from South Street to the Arch Street Methodist Church, where we discussed the goals and implications of occupying the city and the lessons that we can learn from New York.”
He says that the Assembly voted on occupying state land “as opposed to federal grounds in order to avoid being arraigned in Federal Court, where the judges are traditionally more conservative and do not favor free-speech and civil disobedience cases.”
Lukas expressed strong support for Occupy Wall Street. “I am part of the 99 percent that has been affected by the irresponsible and discriminatory processes of the plutocracy that is known as the United States. I give a damn about my rights as a student and as a citizen of this country,” Lukas said.
“I cannot sit back while the largest banking institution in this country, Bank of America, charges me $5 per month for using my own money and prepares to lay off 30,000 employees over the next few years. I cannot sit back while my friends drop out of school because of tuition inflation and my neighbors lose their jobs to company merging and their houses to the banks. I cannot sit back and watch public schools and social services disappear while corporations make record-breaking profits. I also cannot sit back while my rights as an LGBT person continue to be denied in the workplace and in the White House. I am fed up and you should be, too. You’re paying for an education while at Drexel – you might as well use it,” Lukas said.
However, the Occupy Wall Street protests do not have uniform popularity. Fourth-year communication major Dori Molozanov was critical of the movement.
“I have actually been feeling really frustrated about Occupy Wall Street. … I disagree with the protests for one simple reason — I think we are occupying the wrong thing. Corporate America may be corrupt, but corruption is a 2-way street, and the government is on the other side of it,” she said.
“Punishing corporations, as we have seen from the recent threats of bank surcharges on ATM cards, only hurts the American people and accomplishes nothing. … The government seems to be doing a lot to discourage private sector growth and not much to encourage it,” Molozanov said.
She continued, “One of the primary reasons I’m a Republican is because I strongly believe the role of government should be limited as much as possible to one of oversight. The government is, and always has been, also very good at distracting people from its shortcomings and directing our attention at another bad guy.”
While still far from uniformly supported, Occupy Wall Street is growing and garnering more media attention. After the arrest of hundreds of protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge Oct. 1, the media have sharpened focus on the growing movement.
Amid the news stories of youth discontentment, Drexel students may be wondering about their own job prospects. Drexel’s acclaimed cooperative education program places emphasis on internships and collegiate work experience as ways to break into the job market.
“This year we’ve seen an increase in the number of employers recruiting Drexel graduates compared to last year at this time. We expect this will result in more job offers for our students. Students still must set realistic expectations based on the current labor market. … Drexel’s co-op program provides great experiences Drexel students can draw from in setting proper expectations,” Duffy said.
The SCDC emphasized the importance of networking in terms of employability. Co-op experiences may provide students with a clear avenue toward a post-graduation job. “Over one-third of Drexel graduates have accepted an offer with a former co-op employer,” Duffy said.
The SCDC continues to state the importance of work experience through the co-op program, emphasizing that it is an effective way to make a student a more attractive job applicant.