December grads coming back to the UI for help


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Molly Hodge said she’s fortunate to have a job.

Almost immediately after graduating from the UI with a nursing degree in December, she began working as a nursing assistant for UI Hospitals and Clinics.

But she didn’t realize all of her friends would stay unemployed.

“I know classmates who sent out loads of applications, interviewed for every available position, and a month later, most of them are still without jobs,” Hodge said. “It seems hopeless, sometimes.”

She credits a summer internship at the UIHC and helpful mock interviews at the UI Pomerantz Career Center as the key ingredients in her successful job search, she said, but she realizes it takes a bit of luck to succeed in the current economic landscape.

The UI’s recent batch of 1,300 winter graduates face a state unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, according to the most recent figure from U.S. Department of Labor. That’s still better than that of 41 states — but it is a staggering statistic nonetheless, Hodge said.

The Pomerantz Center does not keep figures on how many recent UI grads have landed jobs.

Officials from the center are confronting this new wave of unemployed graduates by offering more programs for alumni flocking back to campus for aid in larger numbers than ever before, said program associate Angi McKie.

“It’s important for alumni to understand they can utilize our programs at any time, whether they graduated last year or 50 years ago,” McKie said. “The vast majority of our services are free, and we have a separate department to deal with these specific concerns.”

Most of these initiatives are geared specifically toward UI alums who still walked the campus sidewalks this past December.

McKie said the UI Employment Expo is free for anyone who graduated in the last six months, though current students must pay a one-time fee for the tool. The online expo offers jobs, internships, and on-campus interviews posted by local employers. It provides a good opportunity for recent alumni to come back and work in Iowa City, McKie said.

“We understand students usually can’t leave the UI with their caps still on and get a job right after graduation,” McKie said. “The Pomerantz Center provides a bevy of recruiting opportunities for students who simply don’t know where to look.”

But even winter graduates already bringing in a steady stream of income aren’t immune from economic concerns.

Cortland Berwald, who obtained a degree in business management from the UI as a backup plan in case his job at MidAmerican Energy fell through, said his story is fairly unusual for the average college graduate.

Berwald, who had a two-year degree from Kirkwood Community College, took one night class a week for 10-consecutive years before finally getting to be part of the UI commencement ceremony.

“In such uncertain times, why not make use of what’s available?” he said. “You can never have enough education.”

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