Does Improved Job Market Bode Well for Worcester College Grads?
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Recently released statistical information from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce show continuing job growth in Massachusetts as well as unemployment rates that have dropped from 6.8-percent in February 2014 to 6.6-percent in March 2014, a figure that is down from 7.1-percent in March 2013. While this looks to be a positive scene for prospective graduates, do these figures accurately project that there will be more jobs?
“The March report brings the total number of jobs in Massachusetts to nearly 3.4 million (3,396,400), the highest number in 13 years,” said Ann Dufresne, the Communications Director at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. “While we continue to see higher unemployment rates among the young and older residents and that not all regions are sharing equally in the economy recovery, we are encouraged that the job numbers show slow and steady growth.”
The unemployment rate of 7.6-percent in Worcester is higher than the current state average, but it should be noted that only the Boston, Cambridge, Quincy area grew more jobs in March.
With a variety of college and university graduations in the coming weeks and a variety of business incubation centers cultivating small and innovative startup companies, all eyes are on Worcester to see if the combination of a slowly but steadily growing economy paired with a crop of soon to be graduates will continue to push the economy to the next level.
Keeping Graduates in the Area
One of the largest concerns associated with having a variety of colleges, universities, and other training programs in a single city is how to keep all of the graduating students from fleeing Worcester when they graduate.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is one of the many colleges in the area devoted to giving students the training that they need to be successful later on in life. While keeping college graduates in the area to help contribute to the local economy is an issue and something that is hard to gather into a statistical outcome, WPI feels that their students are receiving the proper training to compete for a job in any job market.
“WPI students are sought after and many of them receive healthy job offers while they’re completing their senior year of college, which is a very positive sign,” said David Ortendahl, director of Corporate Relations for the Career Development Center at WPI. “We’re able to provide all students with the tools to be successful and [our biomedical engineering and robotics engineering programs] exemplify our success.”
Ortendahl says that over the past four years, the number of WPI graduates going into the industry has risen from around 60-percent to around 70-percent, with another 25-percent entering graduate school. Over the past several years, programs like biomedical and robotics engineering have increased in popularity.
Worcester’s colleges are preparing students for the future but how is it possible to track whether or not these graduates are looking in Worcester or nearby cities for work? While statistical information about whether graduate students are coming to Worcester or leaving for other areas of the state or country, the Worcester Research Bureau is hoping to complete a report that would analyze such information.
“We are currently working to complete a survey to understand how many college graduates are staying in Worcester, how many are leaving when they graduate, and how many Worcester natives are coming back after they graduate elsewhere,” said Timothy McGourthy, the Executive Director of the Worcester Research Bureau. “Right now we are collecting data so it is hard to say any potential outcome from the information. What we do know is that the 25 to 34 year old population in the Worcester area is high and 35 to 40-percent of that bracket has a form of college degree.”
While too early to tell how many people aged 25-34 in Worcester are a byproduct of a local education, McGourthy says that the job market appears to be ready for students graduating in the coming weeks. Although no large growth has appeared in any particular sector in the Worcester area, the slow and steady growth is a good sign for those ready to enter the job market.
One of the largest and most prominent sectors in Worcester is the education and health services sector, which grew more than twice that of any other sector in the city from February 2014 to March.
Education and health services is a broad sector that encompasses a lot of different job fields, but health care specifically is one area that is prevalent in Worcester, not only because of the many hospitals and training schools, but because of businesses like Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives.
Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives is a company devoted to offering space and resources to biomedical startup companies, which is much different than the doctors and nurses that many think of when the word health services comes to mind.
Kevin O’Sullivan, the company’s president and CEO, sees a lot of potential in Worcester and its surrounding areas in fields such as biomedical engineering, contract manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, and life science programs, and has even seen local colleges build programs to support those particular fields.
Being a president and CEO of a company that provides assistance to startup companies, O’Sullivan has seen a lot of ways in which graduates can become involved in the local economy.
“I have seen a lot of college graduates going on to help with some of these smaller startup companies,” said O’Sullivan. “I think that there are a lot more opportunities in Worcester than there have been in years. I think that when people talk about college students, they want to keep them in the area because they are people who have skills in a particular area or profession.”
Part of giving college graduates a chance in the job market, is giving them the proper skills and tools to make them marketable as employees. O’Sullivan says that local Worcester colleges are doing a great job of preparing college students for jobs and careers in the health services field.
“When people mention the wealth of local health services programs in the Worcester area, it is music to my ears,” said O’Sullivan. “I think that the education system in Worcester is humming, which bodes well for the local economy.”
Finding New Manufacturing Jobs
Of the ten sectors of jobs in the Worcester area, three sectors experienced no change and one experienced a loss in the past month. Of the three that remained unchanged, manufacturing is a sector that has drawn a lot of attention and focus in Massachusetts as of late.
Industry experts and members of the Massachusetts government don’t feel that the traditional manufacturing market – something that Worcester was once known for – is something that will be making a comeback to the area, but a new wave of manufacturing jobs could certainly be injected sooner than later.
“The manufacturing jobs that we once knew are something that we are never going to get back,” said Dufresne. “With the Governor’s latest advanced manufacturing initiative, there is an attempt to make up for some of these manufacturing jobs by finding new middle skill jobs that would include technical and IT jobs.”
Dufresne says that the benefits of creating and fostering advanced manufacturing jobs is that in most cases, they do not require a traditional four year college degree, which allows for people who are looking for a less traditional education to have an opportunity to find a well paying career.
”It takes a unique kind of training to plug someone into an advanced manufacturing job,” said Dufresne. “These are jobs that currently have vacancies and do not require a bachelor’s degree. And just because you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to compete for one of these jobs, it doesn’t mean that they are not good paying. A middle skill job in the manufacturing sector can pay $75,000 a year, which could certainly support a family.”
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