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Putting Aggies to work: UCD eyes more opportunities

From left, Jose Cardenas, a third-year aeronautical engineering major; Joshua Coronado, a third-year political science major; and Rizkhan Onies, a second-year managerial economics major; talk with UC Davis athletics representative Ernesto Perez. He works as an Aggie Host at sporting events. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | February 27, 2013 |

About 8,000 of UC Davis’ 25,608 undergraduate students work on campus. Under a jobs initiative announced Tuesday, that number could increase dramatically.

“I can imagine over the next few years this number doubling, but we haven’t set that as a goal,” Provost Ralph Hexter said. “I certainly think we could have many, many more students employed.”

Hexter joined Rebecca Sterling, president of the Associated Students of UC Davis, and Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Adela De La Torre on Tuesday to announce the joint administration-student government effort.

They spoke outside an event at Freeborn Hall featuring alumni speakers, off-campus employers and one-on-one sessions, on topics like cover letter-writing, aimed at helping students market themselves. ASUCD and its co-sponsors plan to make it an annual event, Sterling said.

The provost has called on colleges and administrative units to include in their budget requests plans for how they could put more students to work. In turn, Hexter has promised to attempt to find money to fund as many of those positions as possible.

“The budget is a large one and there are some funds that you can move around, particularly if it’s going to lead us to being a better campus and helping our students,” he said. “It’s part of being student-centric.”

Said Sterling, “We are looking to grow our university, that’s an initiative from the chancellor, so it would be completely unacceptable for the percentage of students employed not to grow comparatively. I hope we go above and beyond that.”

As part of Chancellor Linda Katehi’s 2020 Initiative, UCD has plans to add 5,000 undergraduate students.

Leaders of ASUCD — which employs 1,000 of those undergrads — hope students will be better able to pay for the rising college costs while simultaneously gaining skills that will boost their future employment prospects.

Other steps include:

* Working with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association to bring more alumni to recruit for employees on campus and to increase both the number of mentorship opportunities and students who take advantage of them.

* More detailed tracking of graduate success in the job market. UCD will subcontract with UC Berkeley to send out a new survey, starting this summer, with some 50 questions about income, field, location and internship experience among new workers, as well as questions aimed at those who continue their schooling.

In addition to the undergraduates working in jobs from laboratory assistant to bus driver, about 6,000 students have paid or unpaid internships each year.

About 3,000 students are employed by 712 companies in Davis, Woodland, Sacramento, Dixon and Fairfield who have registered with a campus website to advertise for workers, according to work-study program coordinator Ami Tripp.

Sterling said that students remain “pretty down” about starting a career after graduation:

“People feel pretty nervous for a number of reasons: First, jobs, in general, are difficult to obtain. Second, there are so many different types of jobs and so many different kinds of markets coming out in recent years. People are trying to even figure out where they could fit in or what would be a step in the right direction toward something they might feel passionate about.”

At present, UCD conducts a survey every three years, checking in with alumni who received their bachelor’s degrees one year earlier.

In the most recent of those surveys, 22 percent of 2007-08 baccalaureate recipients reported being unemployed or underemployed — the highest percentage since 1990.

There’s a sunnier forecast for this year’s seniors: Michigan State University projects a modest 5 percent increase in the hiring of new college graduates. The 42nd annual hiring report, released in November, was based on interviews with 4,300 employers.

Marcie Kirk-Holland, project manager at the UCD Internship and Career Center, said that she, too, had seen encouraging signs.

Each year, the center hosts 100 to 150 employers who interview about 1,000 students on campus and hosts four career fairs, each attracting 150 to 180 companies. It wasn’t long ago that center staff found themselves recruiting recruiters — calling companies with online job listings and asking them to consider coming to campus.

“Companies are starting to hire again,” Kirk-Holland said. “We started to see it at the spring career fair last year. For me, sort of the measure of companies’ faith in growth are the management training programs. We didn’t see those for a little while. They started to reappear in the spring, and now they’re full-on this year.

“For students who are remaining active in their job search, there are more opportunities for them.”

— Reach Cory Golden at cgolden@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8046. Follow him on Twitter at @cory_golden

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Cory Golden

Cory Golden

The Enterprise's higher-education and congressional reporter. http://about.me/cory_golden
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