The question is no longer: “Are there jobs available?”; it’s “Will college alumni find them?”
In a year, job vacancies in Oregon have gone up by more than 10,000.
A recent job vacancy survey the Oregon Employment Department found available jobs in Oregon had a peak of 32,700 vacancies during winter 2014, 10,000 more than winter quarter of last year.
But while Oregon job-seekers now have more available outlets, whether Central Oregon Community College graduates will take advantage of the job market is unknown, according to Alicia Moore, dean of Student and Enrollment Services.
“What we don’t have in Oregon is a way to match employment record data with college or university data, to be able to say hard and fast, ‘These students are going into these areas,’” Moore said.
Tracking COCC students
COCC is limited by privacy laws to track whether their students will be finding a workplace in Oregon.
However, COCC employees working directly with students are able to track anecdotally whether the college will translate into the Oregon workforce. Career Services Coordinator Tracy Dula said that “the majority of students I work with are looking for jobs in Oregon.”
Career and Tech Education programs at COCC are also able to help integrate students into the Oregon workforce. Each Career and Tech Education program at COCC – which figures over 25 – has an advisory committee made up of industry professionals. That committee works with internship placement, and is able to both get students into local businesses and promote local employment.
New job vacancies
Getting community college students to fill the increased job vacancies might become important, as Oregon has seen a jump in available jobs requiring education or experience beyond high school. As the Job Vacancy Survey found, figuring into the top nine sectors of job growth is food preparation, production, and office and administrative support, all of which have areas that could call for community college education, or even the benefits of training at COCC’s culinary school.
Oregon job growth was also seen in personal care and service, healthcare practitioners and technical areas, as well as computer and mathematical education. Of these key sectors of Oregon’s job growth, each of the top nine categories saw a boost ranging from 5,000 to 1,000 job vacancies. That spells out a future – and current – need for educated workers in technical areas. According to the survey, Oregon job seekers “have more opportunities, and those opportunities, on average, pay more.”
The future workforce
Although the job market has greater availability for educated workers, Dula says COCC students taking advantage of local job opportunities – would typically already have planned to enter the Oregon workforce.
“My experience is that students choose to work in Oregon because that is where they live,” Dula said.
Eighty-six percent of COCC students are from Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, and of the remaining 14 percent, some students are still from other Oregon counties. That means that over 86 percent of the current COCC students should be more likely to meet the demands of Oregon job vacancies. And according to Dula, every student she has worked with has been fairly up-front in determining whether they will work in Oregon.
While COCC’s way of tracking student employment may not form an up-front percentage, students should be seeking out Oregon jobs, according to survey. The average wage for the vacancies is about 75 cents per hour over the norm, and 65 percent of the available jobs are catering to stable, full-time employment.
“Employers are having more difficulty finding the workers they need,” the survey recapped.
Junnelle Hogen | The Broadside