High-tech degree no longer job guarantee

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Eager to ride the high-tech tide, Andrew Zhou double-majored in computer science and finance when he arrived at Rutgers University in 2000.

But as graduation approaches, Zhou is pinning his hopes on finance and dropping the idea he once had that computer know-how guaranteed him a job.

"Four years ago, it seemed like an awesome major," Zhou said as he waited to speak with a recruiter for a telecommunications management firm at Rutgers' annual career day.

"Now, nobody wants to get in because all the jobs are going to India."

While there are hopeful signs outside the technology sector, outsourcing of computer programming and customer service jobs to China, India and other countries with cheaper labor costs have dimmed prospects for seniors like Zhou, said Richard White, director of career services at Rutgers.

A recent report from Forrester Research projected that as many as 3.3 million American white-collar tech jobs will go to overseas workers by 2015.

"Jobs that used to be available for U.S. citizens are being diverted overseas where the quality is equal or better at a fraction of the cost," White said.

The fallout from outsourcing and a stagnant U.S. technology market means that seniors at San Jose State University -- in the heart of Silicon Valley -- face yet another "very tight" job market, said career center director Cheryl Allmen-Vinnedge.

Experts say the best sectors for seniors to find employment are in finance, health care, advertising and government. And a jump in the number of campus recruiters visiting some campuses is giving students reason for hope.

At the University of Mississippi, for instance, recruiting coordinator Gina Starnes said career center interview rooms are booked solid by corporate representatives during February -- the month many companies converge at the Oxford, Miss., campus to troll for job candidates.

After two consecutive years of little or no growth, the National Association of Colleges and Employers -- which tracks college to workplace job trends -- is forecasting a 12.7 percent jump in hiring this year.

NACE spokeswoman Camille Luckenbaugh warned, however, that while 51 percent of the employers surveyed by the group said they would increase recruitment of college graduates this year, another 28 percent indicated they would curtail hiring on campuses.

A leading Internet source for college students seeking entry-level jobs said listings in the accounting and retail fields have both jumped by over 50 percent compared with last year.

Job opportunities in the financial, health care and advertising sectors also have increased, said Michelle Forker, vice president of MonsterTRAK, a subsidiary of Monster.com, the Online job service.

And the Partnership for Public Service -- a nonprofit that promotes civil service careers -- is predicting that the federal government will fill 73,000 jobs in the next six months.

Internal Revenue Service recruiter Doug Fuller was besieged at the Rutgers' career day.

"The economy has perhaps changed the mind-set of this generation," he said, "Where they think more about jobs with greater stability than you could encounter in the private sector."

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On the Net:

National Association of Colleges and Employers:

http://www.naceweb.org

Partnership for Public Service:

http://www.ourpublicservice.org/

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