Brain Drain

The difficult Michigan economy has many graduates concerned about joblessness post graduation.

Ferris State University students eagerly await graduation to break into the workforce, however the turbulent Michigan economy has forced pre-graduates to rethink their employment strategies.

Finding a job post graduation is difficult enough but even more so these days. According to the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG), Michigan unemployment rate reached 15.3 percent in September, one of the highest compared to the nations average of 9.4 percent. Nevada follows closely with 13.2 percent, followed by Rhode Island, 12.8 percent and California and Oregon with 12.2 percent each. According the United States Department of Labor Oct. 2009 statistics, nationwide unemployment is most acute among white males (10.3 percent) and African-Americans (15.4 percent).

Although the Michigan unemployment rate has remained steady since June 2009, the 6.4 percent increase in unemployment from the last year’s is still daunting.

Staying in Michigan is longer an option for many FSU graduates. Richard Howes, welding engineering technology (WET) graduate and process engineer at Wabash Steele, relocated to Princeton, Indiana, after his May 2009 graduation. Howes felt confident that he could have found a job in MI based on FSU WET program’s 100 percent employment placement rate, however the cost of living in Michigan would have diminished his resources.

“I could have earned 20 percent more money in Michigan,” said Howes. “But living here (Indiana), I have about 40 percent more disposable income.”

National salary of welding engineers is between $50,000 and 100,000 yearly. Michigan welding engineers could earn up to $20,000 more compared to Indiana. Although a welder could earn more, the jobs are simply not in Michigan.

Howes also worked at Bradford and White in Caledonia, MI for nearly two years, and could have had a job there, however he felt that working at Wabash would benefit his career more. And even though Michigan is not the only state struggling with unemployment, Howes feels secure in his occupation.

“WET taught me well and I have proved to be invaluable to my company.” Said Howes.

A Detroit News April 2009 article said that 53 percent of University of Michigan graduates left the state after graduation. And more than half of Michigan State grads relocate, specifically to the Chicago area.

The News also stated that from Michigan Future Inc. Survey that Michigan public university graduates that graduated in 2007 left the state within one year. This article also stated that 63 percent of Michigan grads, that relocate had no intentions of moving back.

Post–grad unemployment also largely depends on career. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, September 2009, pharmacy technicians are the most in demand jobs in Michigan. Likewise, jobs in the healthcare fields also remain in demand. Students pursuing medical, engineering, and information technology degrees are more likely to find a job nationwide compared to other degrees. Meanwhile, automotive and print journalism careers are rapidly leaving the state.

The Flint Journal, The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times have reduced the amount of their daily newspapers, while the Ann Arbor News closed its doors in July 2009, becoming a strictly online news source. Several General Motors (GM) and Chrysler companies have also closed their doors statewide. GM most recently closed their Pontiac, Mich. plant while Chrysler closed down Sterling Heights’ plant.

In addition to students’ difficulty in finding a job on their own, many job recruiters and internships have reduced their funding and programs. This occurrence is due to numerous company lay-offs and reduced budgets. According to a March 2009 article in the Michigan Daily, internships and entry- level jobs in many fields have been reduced to unpaid work.

Although some students plan to take their chances of employment during the recession, others plan on extending their education via graduate school to dodge the economic recession. A Dec. 2008 Michigan Daily articles said that 45 percent of University of Michigan graduates had applied for grad-schools to avoid the job market.

Whether students plan to face the uncertain economy or prolong education with grad-schools, Hughes has one advice for students in all fields.
“Look for a job before graduation!”