© 2012 Idaho Press-Tribune

TREASURE VALLEY — It’s that time of year for college seniors to celebrate, toss up their mortarboards and take home their degrees.

But according to The Associated Press, half of young college grads are either unemployed or underemployed, not using the skills they worked so hard to gain.

About 20,000 jobs are posted each month in Idaho, and there are more than three unemployed people for each posting, Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said.

“It’s still hard to get work in Idaho,” he said. “No matter what your education or your outlook, there’s still the competition for jobs.”

The changing economy seems to be shifting college students’ choices about what degree to pursue.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a decline recently in interest in our education programs from our incoming freshmen. I believe the economy has a lot to do with that,” said Mike Marston, director of admissions at Northwest Nazarene University.

“ … Majors that lead to career fields that are in-demand and pay well are growing, which is a big reason engineering, nursing and science programs in general are so popular right now.”

Certain degree choices such as nursing may up a graduate’s chances of finding work in their line of study.

“Students with degrees not associated with a professional field such as English, philosophy, and history, can find it more challenging to acquire a position,” NNU Career Center Director Amanda Marble said.

At The College of Idaho, biology and healthcare are consistently in the top five majors students pick, Dean of Enrollment Brian Bava said.

Healthcare positions, driven by population growth, are among Idaho’s fastest growing, exemplified by large expansions in Canyon County by St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health systems.

Also Care at Home in Caldwell, which provides healthcare and assists the needs of elderly and disabled, has almost doubled its staff since 2007, manager Debbie Douty said.

On the other end of the spectrum is construction — an industry in Idaho that lost half its workforce during the recession.

“But we also had increased the construction workforce by an unprecedented number during the housing boom, so it was unsustainable,” Fick said

It’s not like the early ‘90s when a bachelor’s was likely to land you a good job, Bava said, so internships and volunteer work are more important than ever for college students.

“Through that experience you’ve networked and found a position somewhere else because of that,” he said.

But hiring is finally starting to loosen up across the board.

“There’s less reason to be discouraged now than there was a year or 18 months ago,” Fick said.

Fastest growing occupations in Idaho that employ more than 1,000 people:

1) Personal and home care aides

  • 10.4 percent increase
  • 228 annual openings
  • Requires on -the-job training
  • Averages $20,560 per year (U.S.)  

2) Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors

  • 9.9 percent increase
  • 84 annual openings
  • Requires training program or license
  • Averages $36,150 per year (U.S.)

3) Home health aides

  • 9.4 percent increase
  • 225 annual openings
  • Requires on the job training
  • Averages $21,820 per year (U.S.)

4) Parts salespersons

  • 7.4 percent increase
  • 93 annual openings
  • Requires on the job training plus informal training
  • Averages $32,000 per year (U.S.)

5) Compliance officers (management, agriculture, construction, health and safety, transportation):

  • 6.9 percent increase
  • 41 annual openings
  • Requires formal instruction and about one year on the job training
  • Averages $71,750 per year (Idaho)

6) Personal financial advisers

  • 6.85 percent increase
  • 42 annual openings
  • Requires bachelor’s degree
  • Averages $64,750 per year (U.S.)

7) Dental assistants

  • 6.4 percent increase
  • 96 annual openings
  • Requires on the job training plus informal training
  • Averages $30,000 per year (Idaho)

8) Dental hygienists

  • 6.4 percent increase
  • 60 annual openings
  • Requires associate’s degree
  • Averages $69,060 per year (Idaho)

9) Social and human service assistants

  • 6.14 percent increase
  • 105 annual openings
  • Requires on the job training plus informal training
  • Averages $28,200 per year (U.S.)

10) Forest and conservation technicians

  • 5.8 percent increase
  • 174 annual openings
  • Requires associate’s degree
  • Averages $35,550 per year (Idaho)

Information from the Idaho Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009-2011


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