February 11, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Environmental Studies ProgramWebsite
Karl Offen Ph.D.: Government strapped for environmental funding, but lowered costs with employees working remotely (by shifting things like computer maintenance to the employee). This will change as a more serious EPA and environmental compliance apparatus takes hold under the Biden/Harris government. It is too early to tell but Biden has promised support for green jobs. He seems to be speaking about blue collar jobs such as solar and wind technicians but this should also improve opportunities for white collar employment in the environmental fields.
Karl Offen Ph.D.: Online communication skills and the ability to work independently, meeting deadlines, and the ability to figure out where to go to get help. Better computer, spreadsheet, and GIS skills.
Karl Offen Ph.D.: The ones I have spoken to, including my own daughter (class of '20), their days are a slog and all online. This ranges from traditionally hands-on work like AmeriCorps and City Government.
University of Minnesota
Department of Soil, Water, and ClimateWebsite
Carl Rosen: Not that I can think of unless the economy gets a lot worse. Instructors of our soil science classes are getting more requests to write letters of recommendation than in past years - so there appear to be opportunities. A number of our graduates from last year landed positions. The distribution of applications is about the same as in the past: Grad schools, private consulting and public sector. In some cases students will do internships and get involved with international work. We think the jobs are there, probably more so than last year. Our students don't seem overly discouraged about their prospects.
Carl Rosen: Environmental consulting, non-profits/NGOs, Federal and state agency jobs e.g. NRCS (mapping & conservation), SWCD & BWSR (soil conservation); MPCA, DNR, MDA (regulation); Extension (education based programming for non traditional audiences in agriculture and natural resources), farming (if they can afford it), ag industries/fertilizer companies (sales and research), graduate school (MS and Ph.D.). All of these are good jobs because they are passionate about using the skills they learned in their undergraduate degree and for the most part they can earn a living wage with benefits.
Carl Rosen: A basic understanding of soil science and plant science is important. However many employers also indicate that an understanding of fundamental sciences, such as physics and chemistry and basic skills in math are also important. Some employers (mostly large industry) also would like the students to have experience abroad - the ability to understand and communicate across cultures. Most employers also desire various professional skills - good verbal and written communication, good work habits and work ethic, and ability to be creative and problem solve.