The primary goals for all college students and recent graduates are the same – land a job that correlates to their particular field of study, and make a living from it. Luckily, the recent economy is making it easier to do that, according to PNC Financial Services Group leaders who recently visited The University of Findlay.
Mekael Teshome, assistant vice president and economist for PNC, and Bill McDonnell, regional president and head of corporate and commercial banking for the corporation’s Toledo market, said economic improvement nationally, statewide and regionally is good news for those earning advanced degrees. They also predicted that things will continue to improve for at least the next few years.
“The U.S. economy is definitely off and running,” said Teshome. “We are entering a period of solid growth. The next two years should be very good years,” with moderate growth this year and growth in income rates next year, he forecasted.
It represents a marked difference from eight years ago, when the Great Recession began. Skyrocketing unemployment meant college graduates were competing with a larger pool of more seasoned workers for fewer available positions, even those that were entry-level.
Teshome said in February, the estimated number of job openings throughout the country was more than 5.1 million. He said that was “near a record.” The “quit rate,” which counts workers who voluntarily leave jobs, is also high, a good indication that employees feel confident enough in the economy to find work elsewhere.
Factors such as cheaper gas prices, low interest rates and the slowing of college tuition rate increases is also helping to rebuild wealth, said Teshome.
Locally, the economy “is like night and day in some respects” compared to the state and nation, Teshome noted. Findlay’s economy in particular is “much more stable,” due in part to large, reliable employers and business diversity. It grows more slowly than that of Ohio’s and the nation’s, but is less prone to drastic economic dips, which has enabled it to get ahead of the game, he said.
For young adults, “things are getting better, but are not quite to pre-Great Recession levels yet,” Teshome said. “They were really the first ones in, and the last ones out of the Recession,” he said. The growth in available jobs in numerous sectors continues to gain momentum, while the rate of educational cost inflation is decelerating compared to the previous decade. “We’re on a firm path to putting young adults in financially sustainable positions, but we still have a few more years to go,” he said.
Borrowing for a college education is still a good bet, Teshome and McDonnell said, as long as students are tactical about it.
“As crazy as it sounds, education still pays. It opens up opportunities that you wouldn’t normally have had if you hadn’t gone to school,” said Teshome. It is also increasingly necessary for the types of jobs that are available. “There is a shift in the U.S. economy in general toward more knowledge intensive jobs,” he said. “The jobs of the future will require higher levels of training and education.”
But students should pay attention to the job market, and select their areas of study wisely. “Some years ago, people would go to school, get a degree in something they were interested in and then figure it (employment) out somehow,” said McDonnel. These days, the cost of education and potential job earnings are factors that must be researched before donning the cap and gown, he said.
Planning, however, will only take you so far, McDonnell and Teshome said. When they were students, neither expected to ever be working for a bank, they said. While talking with UF students, both suggested personal and professional self-branding coupled with risk-taking.
“Always be seeking opportunities,” Teshome recommended. “Sometimes that can even take the form of unpaid internships. Be open-minded and flexible. Your perspective really makes a difference too. Sometimes you can get so focused on getting to that next position that you forget to do a good job with the one you’re in right now.”
Just go for it,” said McDonnel. “Get out of your comfort zone.”