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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Annual Low-Wage Job Fair – Editorial 4/22/04

The Spring Career Expo has become an annual disappointment.

The Workforce 2004 Career Expo, held in the Campus Center Ballroom last week and organized by University Career Services, hosted over 50 companies from many fields. However, just as in years past, most jobs being offered were low-paying, menial labor-type positions. Not much was offered in the way of marketing, management, or IT jobs, leaving many students frustrated. The expo better serves as a “job fair” for students that need temporary employment.

Why doesn’t the expo provide more opportunities for UMass Boston students? Our alumni can compete with the best. Over the last few years UMB graduates have proven themselves as some of the best scholars in the nation. We have produced a Marshall Scholarship winner, Fulbright Fellowship winners, and Rhodes Scholar finalists. Yet the Career Expo offers us little more than jobs lifting packages for UPS, selling cell phones for T Mobile, or working a cash register at Staples.

Is there a problem with the way some employers perceive our graduates? Do employers think UMB students are only suited for blue-collar work? If this is the case, the problem can be rectified through marketing. The university needs to do a better job promoting its students, showcasing their many positives, and improve its communication with employers to let them know about the achievements and talents of UMass students.

Do employers see a curriculum problem? If they feel there is a lack of relevant majors and courses, UMass Boston needs to reevaluate what it offers and consider making some additions.

Or does the problem lie with Career Services? Former Student Trustee Omar Bukhari said that from the time he was a sophomore until the time he graduated the annual Spring Expo was a disappointment. Bukhari added, “When you get an MBA in Computer Science you don’t want to work at McDonald’s.”

Last year, the Undergraduate Student Senate took up the issue, pressing the Chancellor and Career Services to reassess their efforts to connect students with top employers. But despite the work of student leaders, there was no noticeable improvement from last year’s expo.

Michael Gaskins of Career Services defended the efforts of his office, explaining that for each expo they make a tremendous effort to recruit employers, working with administrators and targeting some of the best companies in New England. He adds that of the hundreds of job fairs across the state, even the biggest expos are not keeping up with the demand for good jobs. Gaskins offers the explanation that many companies today prefer recruiting via the web rather than “going to the expense of attending a career fair.”

The poor economy cannot explain away perennially poor performance. More aggressive recruitment, increased organization and an easing, as much as possible, of financial and personnel difficulties on potential employers certainly can’t hurt.

Although it is unclear who should shoulder what portion of the blame, it is a matter worth investigating. After all, what good is investing in a college education if your degree can’t help you get a better job?