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Students face a grim jobs market as thousands graduate into a recession

Otago University Students' Association president Melissa Lama says there is widespread concern among students graduating into a recession.

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Otago University Students’ Association president Melissa Lama says there is widespread concern among students graduating into a recession.

Like many students who have recently graduated, Melissa Lama is as nervous as she is excited.

The Otago University Students’ Association president was excited to finish years of study, but nervous because she was entering the workforce at a time of great economic uncertainty.

With inflation at 32-year highthe Reserve Bank deliberately trying to force a recessionand thousands of job losses on the cardsthere is not a lot to look forward to for recent graduates.

Lama said the current economic climate was a “widespread concern” for students.

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“We are going through a recession. When that happens budgets tighten and businesses change their priorities in terms of hiring… Students are worried,” Lama​ said.

Students who had studied for years with a particular career path in mind were having to change plans at the last minute because of a lack of options or job security, she said.

“Undergrads are nervous about what jobs are out there. They think it’s going to be a very competitive market based on who you know. These are very real anxieties that students have,” Lama said.

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Xavier Walsh​ is the co-president of Unite Union and is about to graduate in early 2023.

Walsh said it was no surprise new graduates were nervous, considering the economic environment they were walking into.

“We are already struggling with the cost of living, we are already struggling to find affordable housing. Looking into the future and what is next, it is hard not to feel disillusioned,” Walsh said.

Graduates of university and trades colleges had done what society had told them would give them a good start to their career, but were now finding out that it might not be enough to secure employment, he said.

“This younger generation is hopeful, they want to use their skills in meaningful work to change the world for the better. If they end up entering a labor market that does not appreciate them it will be quite disheartening,” Walsh said.

Auckland University of Technology management professor Candice Harris said graduates entering the workforce in a recession may need to adjust their expectations.

“University graduates choose particular courses of study often with the idea of ​​getting their dream job. In a recession, it may be possible that you don’t secure that dream job that you may have been able to in a tighter labor market,” Harris said.

Graduates should be aware that in a recession businesses may have less time for on-boarding and new hires may be expected to “hit the ground running” to show a new employer their value, Harris said.

Auckland University of Technology management professor Candice Harris says new hires may need to 'hit the ground running' to prove their value to employers.

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Auckland University of Technology management professor Candice Harris says new hires may need to ‘hit the ground running’ to prove their value to employers.

But businesses should keep in mind that to neglect new workers during a recession could have long term negative ramifications down the line, she said.

“If you are a bank that has a graduate recruitment program that you decide to freeze, yes it will save money, but given these are your future leaders and high performing staff, that decision will have longer term consequences,” Harris said.

Auckland University career development and employability services manager Sarah Moyne​, said there was always anxiety for recent graduates entering the job market, but it had increased in the last year.

Moyne advised graduates to build their employability outside their degree by gaining work experience and utilizing their personal networks to try and secure employment.

The grim economic forecast was bringing more students to seek employability services, even students who were years away from graduating, she said.

“We are trying to build a student’s ability to connect to jobs as early as possible. In addition to how to enter the workforce, it is not just getting in, it is staying in,” Moyne​ said.

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