JULIANNE MALVEAUX

(TriceEdneyWire.com)—The college class of 2017 is in a better employment position than any college class in a decade.   With the unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent, lower than we’ve seen it since 2007, and with wages ticking up (although too slowly), today’s college graduates are far better off than their colleagues who graduated in 2008, when the Great Recession caused employers to rescind job offers that had already been made in writing.  Now, the human resource management company Korn, Ferry, Hay, says that the average graduate will earn $49,785, up three percent from last year. Accounting for inflation, 2017 grads will earn 14 percent more than graduates ten years ago.

The biggest winners are those in the STEM areas. Software developers and engineers, earn more than $63,000 a year, while actuaries, science researchers, and environmental professionals earn at least $58,000.  In contrast, those who work in call centers as claims examiners, or customer service reps have earnings at the bottom of the distribution.  In any case, most of those who graduate this month have jobs already lined up!

Of course, African American college graduates will have a more difficult time than their White counterparts, both because African Americans experience higher unemployment rates and because African American students are less likely to concentrate in the STEM areas than their counterparts. It will be interesting, however, to see how those African American graduates, especially HBCU graduates, fare in this labor market.  Universities like Morgan State and Howard, and colleges like Spelman and Hampton, have high concentrations of STEM graduates, but unfortunately too many companies don’t even bother to recruit at these colleges.  If companies want to do more than diversity lip services, they need to change their regular recruiting patters. That’s why the Howard University/Google partnership is so exciting, and why the partnership between Apple Computers and the Thurgood Marshall Fund makes so much sense.

While a welcoming job market is a foundation for career success, my recent interview with Julie Silard Kantor, the founder of Twomentor, suggest that good job market news isn’t enough.  Julie’s company helps corporations develop and foster a mentoring culture so that experienced employees can help new workers learn the ropes, and learn the corporate culture. Much of corporate culture is unwritten, but even new employees are penalized when they don’t appear “in sync” in prevailing culture.  Too often this works against African American employees when “collegiality” translates into promotions.  Mentors can often smooth the way for those who aspire to move up in the workplace.

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