For Oklahoma State University landscape architecture graduate Jessica Waugh, the job search was more of a job sort. Before Waugh even walked across the commencement stage May 3, she'd had four employment offers, including two from out-of-state companies. She picked a Tulsa firm and will start work next week. Southern Nazarene University physical education graduate Clay Schubert is still looking for his first teaching job. Many districts are hiring fewer teachers this year because of tight budgets and low turnover. "I really want to teach, but it's not looking good,” he said. Hiring managers and college career specialists say the job market is still ripe for most Oklahoma graduates, especially those with degrees in architecture, engineering, accounting and healthcare. They say growth in the oil and gas industries has helped shield Oklahoma from job worries faced by many other states. "In Oklahoma, we are not seeing any slowdown at all,” said Meg Salyer, who owns Excel Financial Staffing, a job placement firm in Oklahoma City. "The energy sector is gobbling up loads of folks.” OSU career services director Pam Elhers said that in recent years, demand for workers has outpaced supply. This year, it may be evening out, but she's had few students complaining they can't find work. "Those who want jobs can find jobs,” she said. "The employers that have come (to OSU) late looking for employees aren't finding anyone left.” But at least one sector, education, is starting to see a hiring slowdown, said Beth Adele Waddelow, career services director at the University of Central Oklahoma. Many school districts are hiring only education graduates with certifications in math, science, English as a second language or special education. The result is that more education graduates are enrolling in graduate school or moving out of state to work. Waddelow says Texas and Kansas remain heavy recruiters of teachers.
Starting salaries riseSchubert, a native Texan, didn't look out-of-state because his wife has a job here with Devon Energy. He says he may seek certification in special education to better his job chances in Oklahoma. Waugh, the landscape engineer, said staying in Oklahoma was a key reason she chose the Tulsa firm. "It was closer to home, and I like the work they did,” said the Kingfisher native. The National Association of Colleges and Employers says starting salaries are on the rise for 2007-2008 graduates. Fields with the highest increases in salary include engineering, marketing, computer science and management information systems. While finance graduates are seeing a modest 1.5 percent increase in salaries, UCO finance major Joi Bowles said she's confident the industry will recover from recent industry woes. Bowles, 21, graduates next year and hopes to find a job in personal investments. "I'm not worried about finding a job,” she said. "I want to help people who have money invest it.”
Oklahoma State University graduate Jessica Waugh fielded several job offers as a landscape architect. Hiring managers say the job market hasn't slowed down for most Oklahoma grads. By MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN