The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 29, 2009

University steps up career assistance

By KELLY URBAN

For recent college graduates, stepping into the “real” world can be a daunting and even scary task.

As a way to help ease the pressure, Pitt-Johnstown has launched its “100 Days – 100% Initiative,” an extension of the university’s RealWorld Action Program.

Career counselors are dedicating their time this summer to assisting students in securing employment or admission into graduate school.

The staff has shifted its focus to serve as personal coaches and headhunters over a 100-day period that began with the April commencement.

“We are reading daily on how the economy is and the news is grim, so our career services staff is dedicating 100 percent of their time in helping students make those connections with employers and improving and critiquing resumes so they can stand out,” said Bob Knipple, UPJ’s executive director of external relations.

Figures recently released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers show that

63 percent of responding seniors are worried about their job prospects, and more than 61 percent see the economy as a serious challenge to gaining employment.

“We strive to get students ready for the real world, and just because they have graduated does not mean our connection with them stops,” Knipple said.

To date, 273 students have completed an online survey as part of the program. Seventy-nine graduates have found employment.

Two full-time counselors are researching companies and employment opportunities, reviewing resumes, identifying job fairs, coaching students on the interviewing process and staging mock interviews, and providing recommendations on social networking do’s and don’ts.

“We’re also encouraging graduates to broaden their geographic scope and branch out past western Pennsylvania so they can maximize their hiring potential,” Knipple said.

President Jem Spectar noted that the initiative is yet another way the university is dedicated to the ongoing success of its students.

“We are taking proactive steps to help our students maximize their potential for being hired into rewarding positions or gaining acceptance into high-quality graduate programs,” he said.

There is no guarantee the counselors will be able to secure a job for a grad, but it’s a good starting point.

“We want them to have the skills to be competent members of society and become employed and not feel defeated by the whole process,” Knipple said.