Monday, January 18, 2010

Economy Down but Service & Volunteer Jobs Up

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies intend to hire 22 percent fewer college graduates this year compared to last year's class. In early reports from the NACE's study of 2009 graduating seniors due out in April, as many as 63 percent of students surveyed are concerned that the economy will negatively affect their job prospects.

But the news might not be all bad. While the economy is down, volunteer and service program applications are up. Way up.

While service-oriented job programs like Teach for America and Peace Corps have enjoyed steady popularity with young people as an alternative to entering the traditional workforce upon graduation, these programs are reporting a major surge in applications in the past several months.

Teach for America, a training program that hires recent college graduates and professionals with no formal teaching experience to work in the nation's neediest school districts, has received more than 35,000 applications for this year's teaching corps -- a 42 percent increase over last year's record numbers.

Amy Rabinowitz, TFA's vice president of communications, says the struggling economy is just one cause for the jump in applications.

"While the economy played a role in reducing competition for top applicants, we believe this year's increase can also be attributed a growing interest among young people to engage in public service," she explains.

Today's university graduates represent part of a wider trend in which colleges and universities expect well-rounded students to have engaged in public service throughout their education.

Volunteerism by older teens has doubled since the 1980s and service participation in college has risen sharply since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 according to the Corporation for National and Community Service Report, "Volunteer Growth in America."

The UCLA Graduate School of Education reports that two-thirds of college freshmen believe it is essential or very important to help others -- the highest figure in 25 years.

This surge in service appears indicative of the so-called Millennial Generation -- people born between 1983 and 2003 -- who have come of age as the Internet has increased access to information about communities around the world as well as service opportunities across cultural and national boundaries.

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