Graduates try out Guam’s job market
THE significance of post-secondary education becomes obvious with the increasing number of graduates each fall and spring semester of each year; but while institutions breed their students into highly-qualified individuals for the workforce, it doesn’t mean there are enough jobs available on Guam to employ these graduates.
Economic uncertainty still plagues the island with the unemployment rate remaining the same, if not on the rise. In March 2011, Guam’s unemployment rate was reported at 13.3 percent. Although the unemployment rate this year has yet to be released in the summer, there appears to be a decrease in the number of jobs over the year, according to a preliminary March 2012 current employment report prepared by Guam Department of Labor Chief Economist Gary Hiles.
Gov. Eddie Calvo last month described the number of jobs currently available on Guam as “sobering news.” According to the current employment report, the number of jobs declined over the year by 1,720. Majority of the decline was attributed to the construction industry, while the hotel industry saw a slight increase, due to the number of hours worked. The report also showed that federal employment declined by 90 jobs last quarter and employment in government of Guam “declined marginally,” but no numbers were provided.
Despite the unemployment rate, there is an increasing number of individuals becoming more competent for the workforce after earning their credentials through trade school or at an institution of post-secondary education like the University of Guam or Guam Community College.
Bert Johnston, GCA Trades Academy education director, said there is an average of 24 to 25 individuals who receive their certificates every month. Although not everyone is guaranteed a job upon certification, their credentials give them more of an edge in the job market. He also said the employment of those certified individuals is dependent on the number of jobs available for them.
Meanwhile, UOG and GCC recently concluded the Spring 2012 semester by graduating more than 600 students altogether.
UOG had a total of 282 graduates. Of that number, 214 received their undergraduate degrees, with a large number coming from the School of Business and Public Administration. There were 68 who earned their masters degrees from the graduate programs.
GCC had 349 graduates and of that number, a record number of 73 completed their apprenticeship program and are already employed in their industry, confirmed Jayne Flores, GCC assistant director of Communications and Promotions. There were 120 who received their associate degrees; 47 who earned certificates; 25 who received an Adult High School diploma; and 135 who received their GED diploma.
It is unclear as to how many students have obtained employment upon graduation. GCC conducts a voluntary graduation survey; however, it is not a sure indicator of how many individuals are employed in their field of study.
“We do have a voluntary graduation survey; however, because it is voluntary and not all students complete the survey, it is not an accurate record of how many graduates are employed, except for our apprenticeship graduates, who by virtue of their status as apprentices are already employed,” Flores explained. “Because we have a non-traditional student population, many of our students are already working while they are going to school. We do many internships in programs such as Culinary and Hospitality Industry Management, and students in those internships are often picked up by the employers after they graduate. Because the employment market is so fluid, it is difficult to keep track of employment, especially after the students graduate.”
Fortunately, 22-year-old Kathyrine Arazas has used her educational experience to land her a job in her field of study. Arazas graduated from GCC last month, earning her associate degree from the Medical Assisting program.
She is currently employed with two clinics, one of which picked her up after she completed her internship with them.
“I’ve been employed at Ben Malabanan dental clinic for about six years now and I currently got hired at Guam Medical Care where I’ve been doing my internship at the beginning of this year,” Arazas said.
Arazas explained that studying, as well as working in a related health field, helped give her more confidence in interacting with patients as well as preparing her on what to expect when working under a physician.
“I was able to apply what I learned, from medical terminology to sterilizing instruments, and how to care for patients, and it made it easier for the nurse and medical assistant at Guam Medical Care to train me because I already knew things beforehand,” she stated.
Given the loss in Guam jobs, Gov. Calvo remarked during the briefing on current employment that there are certain things to look forward to, including the tourist industry.
“It goes to show we have to work hard and we have to continue to push,” he said. “We just can’t wait for this military buildup to happen, we have to create our own destiny.”