There’s little room to spare in the garage of A.C. Collins Ford in Pasadena. The bays are filled with cars and SUVs in varying states of repair. It’s a busy day for Adan Alanis.
Three years ago, Alanis was a high school senior. Those graduating that year faced the worst job market in decades. But there was still a demand for workers with strong technical skills, and Alanis was acing his classes in automotive technology, when recruiters came to visit.
“The manager here and a few other managers from different dealerships came by and they interviewed all of us, and they only hired me and one other guy, because we were always on top of our studies, and we always had the highest grades in class.”
Fast forward to 2013. Alanis has seen the market for skilled workers take off since he graduated from high school. But even in his short career, the skills demanded by the automotive industry have grown more complex.
“Everything’s getting more electronic, and I’ve been into electronics, too.”
To keep current, Alanis is again a new graduate. He’s just earned his associate’s degree from nearby San Jacinto College. If he was a standout high school grad three years ago, Alanis — with his even-sharper skills now — is a more typical success story among this year’s graduates.
Jamie Belinne is assistant dean for career services at the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business
“You need to have a specific skill set that you’re marketing to employers. Those that have technical skills — the accounting, the MIS, the supply chain, the finance, the engineering — all of those students are doing very well.”
But what about graduates who don’t have a technical background? Belinne says there are more opportunities for them as well, but they still need an edge.
“If you’re not going to have a technical skill set, you need to have a very strong communications skill set.”
Strong communications skills alone are rarely enough. J.C. Gage is an Iraq War veteran and a newly minted graduate of the University of Houston with a degree in public relations. He just started an internship with a PR firm, along with a part-time job on the Houston Chronicle’s sports page. So far, a full-time job has eluded him.
“I’m working 9 to 4, Monday through Thursday, and then I’m working four nights a week at the Chronicle, from 6 to midnight. So my sleep and full-time and job search is postponed until the weekend, pretty much.”
It’ll be a while before the jobs numbers for the Class of 2013 come in. But a study recently released by the Economic Policy Institute may provide a preview. The report found that last year, the unemployment rate for Texas workers under 25 was double the average for the state.