Graduates facing decisions in tough job market

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 17, 2009

NATCHEZ — Several years ago Oscar Porter headed back to school to set himself apart in the job market. Now, close to graduating from community college, he is planning to head to school all over again because that job market isn’t all that friendly.

Porter, 51, plans to complete his associate’s degree in business and marketing this summer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

But he’ll be continuing his classes to add a degree in hospitality management to his resume.

Email newsletter signup

The current economy and job market have many high school, community college and college graduates thinking twice before packing up and sending out resumés. The job they want may not be there.

Co-Lin President Ronnie Nettles said community colleges across the state are expecting higher enrollments for the coming year because more students are choosing school when they can’t find work and more may be unable to afford a four-year college.

“Generally, when there are tough economic times, tuition at universities may be high, and people tend to turn to community colleges,” he said.

The general consensus among those in the nation’s community college system is a 5 to 8 percent increase in enrollment statewide.

For Porter, though, more education isn’t just a fallback; it’s a good plan.

“What I want to do is train young people to be able to achieve the goals that they want,” Porter said. “So by going back to school and achieving one of my goals, that shows them what determination can get them.”

Porter, who attended Coahoma County Community College right out of high school, said not finishing college always felt like a door that was closed prematurely.

Prior to enrolling at Co-Lin Natchez, Porter worked as a manager at a variety of restaurants, where he was charged with training other staff members.

Porter said in the current job market, you have to do anything you can to set yourself apart from other applicants.

“Finishing (my degree) shows that I have determination and the desire to better myself,” Porter said. “I want to better myself financially and better my lifestyle.”

High school graduates are facing tough decisions about their futures as well, Natchez High School Guidance Counselor Iris Myles said.

“I have seen a few go from four-year college to junior college due to the financial difficulties,” Myles said.

And in Vidalia, at least a handful of students are taking an entirely different route.

“We are having four (students) go on to the military this year,” Vidalia High Counselor Cynthia Smith said. “Usually, we have one or two out of a larger class. I think a lot of them view it as an opportunity to further their education.”

Natchez High academic standout Guy Wimberly is headed to college, but he’s taking steps to make sure there’s a job ready for him when he gets out.

Wimberly said he will likely major in math, with a minor in music, then return to Natchez High School to teach.

And he said he almost certain that no matter the county’s economic state, they’ll still need a math teacher.

“I just think teaching is a safe bet,” he said. “There’s always going to be a need for schools and teachers. I don’t think teachers will be going away any time soon.”

Other students have plans to go straight to work after graduation, some to save money for college and some for good, Myles said.

In Natchez, seniors had the chance to visit the Winn Job Center to look for work, and Smith said Vidalia had a job fair aimed primarily at those who did not plan to go to college.

“I think those students are going to be the ones who feel the crunch because there, aren’t any jobs out there and no one is hiring,” Smith said.

“That’s going to be the cruncher.”