Getting ahead in the job market by starting early


Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - Justin Jones

PADUCAH, Ky. - There's a new group of soon-to-be graduates getting ready to walk across the stage and into an increasingly competitive job market. Fresh out of school, they'll be fighting against people with years of experience on their resumes.

The unemployment numbers for recent graduates are going down, but they still don't compare with what they were before the recession. 21 to 24 year olds with bachelors degrees averaged an 8.8 percent unemployment rate over the last year according to The Labor Department. Once you include young graduates who have taken part-time jobs, or who have stopped looking for a job in the last year, the rate jumps up to 18.3%. Those who have found a full-time job are now making about $3,200 dollars less each year than they were in 2000, after adjusting for inflation. The figures are bleak at best, but there are ways to get ahead by starting early.

"I wanted to get a jump start in my education," said Shelby Doucet. She's working on two associates degrees at West Kentucky Community & Technical College. She graduates in May from high school. She said, "Now I know that I'm ready for college."

Doucet is technically a middle college student on the road to reaching her goals working in her dream career. She has been accepted to the University of Kentucky for the fall 2013 semester. She said, "I want to be an orthopedic surgeon." Workforce Solutions Vice President Jim Pape said she's doing the right things by becoming career ready while pursuing higher education.

Pape said the key to finding a job is twofold. "Education is fantastic. Education plus experience is unbeatable." That's a combination Doucet has gotten a head start on. She said, "I know there are older people also competing for the same jobs. But, considering I already have two degrees to my name, I feel that has made me more prepared and better off for a job than someone else might be."

She also said her chosen career field makes her feel pretty secure, and in our area, Pape said there are a good amount of opportunities for people ready to work. "We see more interest in the mechanical areas, technical areas, and chemical areas with new companies that have committed to coming to the Paducah area," he said.

According to The Economic Policy Institute, the biggest job barrier for recent college graduates is a weak demand rather than a lack of the right education or skills.