April 27, 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.
Dr. Ambika Raj Ph.D.: Given the pandemic, the biggest trend we are seeing in the job market for the field of curriculum and instruction is the need for qualified teachers who are comfortable teaching on an online platform. Last May, some colleges and universities included technology training such as a ACUE micro-credential in online teaching, promoting engaged and active online learning etc. These are nationally accredited credentials. And teachers/students who have taken these are at a definite advantage.
Another trend that we are seeing - everyone who has a computer and computer skills are offering classes of one sort or the other - they realize they can set up "office" simply by opening their computer. I know of at least a few teenagers who have done this with great success. High school seniors offering to teach/coach younger students, dance, music, theater, PE teachers having a side business teaching classes in the weekends online.
Currently, LAUSD in looking for qualified substitute teachers because schools have opened up in the larger LA area and only a few students can attend at a time. So in order to manage the days and not burnout teachers, many substitute teachers are being hired.
Dr. Ambika Raj Ph.D.: Certainly certifications that say that you have an online credential have the most impact. Our College has a wonderful online teaching program that they offer to students. Last summer we saw a rise in the number of applicants who wanted to become teachers - both in the credential as well as bachelors/masters programs.
Dr. Ambika Raj Ph.D.: Unfortunately, salaries have not changed significantly at all. The pandemic has made all teachers/professors and instructors jobs triple - but the compensation is about the same. In fact, I would say many of the schools furloughed their teachers.
Lake Superior State University
Exercise & Sport Science departmen
Dr. Sally Childs: The documented demand for outdoor recreation opportunities has been steadily increasing since the National Park Service was established in 1916. The Outdoor Recreation Industry is the nation's 4th largest economic engine, outpaced only by health care-related industries. The recommended CDC protocols for combating the spread of COVID compliment the opportunities available through outdoor recreation settings (parks) and/or activities. During the summer of 2020, many parks and some specific outdoor recreation sites were so crowded that visitor restrictions needed to be implemented. Outdoor recreation equipment sales spiked in such a way that demand frequently exceeded supply, both in relatively inexpensive items, such as kayaks, and in big ticket items such as travel trailers and boats. I am absolutely convinced that this demand for outdoor recreation opportunities and outdoor recreation sites (parks, state and national forests, and other undeveloped nature based areas) is going to continue far into the future. The COVID protocols stimulated people to pursue outdoor opportunities, not only for the physical activities, but to escape the enforced isolation of the shelter at home directives, to facilitate alternative family based experiences, to provide a spiritual and emotional renewal, and to simply offer people an opportunity to experience an environment that seemed to function quite within the range of "normal" despite COVID. Consequently, I believe that the need and the demand for people seeking careers in all aspects of the outdoor recreation industry; everything from instructors and guides in a wide variety of endeavors and settings, to marketing and sales in the private sector, to resource managers and facilitators in the public sector, will continue to expand. A recent graduate in an outdoor recreation field who has recently acquired the knowledge base and skill set necessary to provide safe yet stimulating outdoor recreation experiences, who can adequately and appropriately answer questions, recommend and maintain equipment, and or has the ability to manage and protect the resource base, all while encouraging human access, is going to be able to find employment. COVID further stimulated growth in an already expanding industry.
Dr. Sally Childs: Some of the most essential skills that will be necessary for professionals in this field to be successful are frequently identified as "soft skills." These skills are often difficult to quantify. Regardless of the setting, professionals working in this field need to be very comfortable working with all people of all ages and abilities. Communication skills are essential; active listening, patience, tolerance, and being able to present a non-threatening, non-judgemental demeanor has a strong positive impact on being able to successfully respond to visitor/client needs and wants. Problem solving is essential. Being task oriented but concurrently, being able to easily deviate from routine is important. Professionals in this field frequently need to make decisions without having immediate access to supervisors. These people need to be very aware of agency goals, policies and protocols and be confident in their ability to independently represent these through their behavior and the behavior that they encourage/enforce in others. The "hard skills" that are required will depend in part on the particular job/agency/setting. Computer and IT skills will be essential for everyone, although there certainly will be a fair amount of latitude regarding the degree of expertise required. Basic construction skills; plumbing, framing, concrete, and electrical will be an asset for anyone working in a park or an area that has been even moderately developed for outdoor recreation purposes. Mechanical skills, everything from small engine repair all the way to vehicle upkeep and maintenance will also be a skill set which is in demand. A basic understanding of the requirements for maintaining a healthy resource base; forestry, watersheds, ecosystems, wildlife habitat, will also be necessary for professionals managing everything from campgrounds to wilderness areas. Many Parks have a strong historical and or cultural component. Facilitation and Interpretation skills will be needed if the professional chooses this portion of the Parks and Recreation continuum. If the professional is intent on becoming an instructor or guide, then whatever technical skills are associated with "best practices" in that particular activity will be essential. It is also likely that they would be expected to be credentialed in Wilderness First Aid, and other backcountry "survival and safety" skills. Law enforcement skills are also in demand in parks and recreation settings.
Dr. Sally Childs: As with most professional fields, parks and recreation and outdoor recreation providers seek potential employees with a strong history of experience in the precise area they are hiring for. Fortunately, this is an industry that actually seeks out a young, enthusiastic, and relatively unskilled labor force for many of the entry level positions. An interested and dedicated individual can start working in a variety of outdoor recreation settings while they are still in high school. That seasonal work can continue through college, and by the time that person completes their college degree, they will not only have the academic credentials, but they will also have acquired a strong resume of job/career related experience and possibly, a history of agency affiliation. This period of time, as a student is matriculating through their college degree, becomes the time for the prospective professional to experiment and engage in self study. The parks and recreation/outdoor recreation spectrum is so expansive and diverse that it may take several different seasonal placements, working in a variety of areas of responsibility, in order to discover the best fit for the "perfect" career.