With few jobs and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, college students and recent graduates are finding creative ways to build résumés and stay active.
Beverly Madden, spokeswoman for the College of San Mateo, said students enrolled in Peninsula community colleges are not immune to the economic downturn.
She said because of the economy, more students are turning toward unpaid internships or even study-abroad programs.
“We are seeing a greater seriousness toward education,” Madden said. “Some are potentially volunteering and many are taking unpaid internships.”
At Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, students have long been encouraged to give back to their community through service, while gaining experience that can translate to the workplace.
During the university’s alternative spring break, six students and two faculty members traveled to Jamaica for the first time this year to build homes and immerse themselves in the culture, according to Eli Latimerlo, co-director of the Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement at the school.
Latimerlo said the trip was organized to help students take part in community engagement internationally, and he said it could expand to the summer and winter breaks.
“Yes, we are always thinking of opportunities to do that,” Latimerlo said. “Economics not withstanding, it’s part of our commitment to make opportunities available to students.”
Other volunteer opportunities brought students to Tijuana, Mexico, and Salinas. Latimerlo said students will head to the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee and Kentucky.
The volunteer work could be a form of experience and giving back to the community college that students are looking for. So many college students are competing with experienced adults for jobs because of the recession that students are getting creative with their résumés.
“As you would expect, they’re scrambling,” Madden said. “Not much out there. What is out there is competing with educated adults.”
The College of San Mateo is the largest college in the county, with more than 11,000 students, and offers degrees and certificates in dozens of disciplines, including accounting, dental assistance and computer science.
According to the state Economic Development Department, in April — the most recent data available — San Mateo County had an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent.
California, meanwhile, had a jobless rate of 12.6 percent.
San Mateo County’s unemployment rate nearly doubled from 4.8 percent in 2008 to 8.6 percent in 2009. So far in 2010, the rate does not seem to be dropping.
Renee Ward, founder of teens4hire.org, said finding a job is not unimaginable.
“There are openings,” Ward said. “Employers are just doing it stealthier.”
Ward said many companies are not advertising on major employment sites.
“They don’t want to be inundated with applications,” she said.
Her website acts as an intermediary to help teens find employment by allowing companies to set up requirements and give the teen the opportunity to apply.
Ward said jobs that are often filled by teens are increasingly being taken by 23- or 24-year-olds graduating from college.
Daniel Kielman, a San Francisco State University graduate student, said he had to move to Sacramento to be a substitute teacher because choices were limited in the Bay Area.
The 24-year-old received his master’s degree in cinematography in May, but said because of the economy, he knew he’d need to change his focus in order to make a living.
“I wasn’t expecting to graduate with my master’s degree and someone would pay me to direct,” he said. “The current economy certainly affects that, but it’s not a sense I wasn’t already aware of.”
If Aaron Eisenberg does not get a job with his undergraduate degree, he has his music career to fall back on.
The 22-year-old recent San Francisco State University graduate said he doesn’t currently have a job, but his band — the Soft White Sixties — is recording an album and getting more gigs in The City.
“I’m trying to find work to pay the rent,” Eisenberg said. “I love playing music, but love doing film stuff, too. I don’t want to cast either aside.”
Other students throughout the Bay Area are having similar experiences. Neal Pascua, a senior at the Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, said he’s lucky to have obtained and kept a job on campus that will allow him to make more money than at a local retail store.
Pascua, 21, said without the campus employment, he would have to return home to Fairfield for the summer to save on rent while searching for a minimum-wage job before returning to the Peninsula for school.
Pascua said he’s studying musical theater with a minor in communications. He has one more year before graduating to the “real world,” and he’s aware of the potential barriers he will face when looking to start his professional career.
“Musical theater is more of a hobby I enjoy,” he said. “I feel I can get something more practical maybe in [broadcasting].”
Alex Brouillet, 23, however, was able to obtain an internship editing online video for Bay Kids, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that gives children in hospitals an interactive tutorial on filmmaking.
And San Francisco State student Timmy Tran chose to stay in China to complete work on a documentary. He said because of the economy, he may extend his three-month stay to travel.
“I plan to stay here for another month in Asia to visit Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia. I also will be visiting Hong Kong and Macau, since I am here,” he said in an e-mail.
University: San Francisco State
Major: Master’s in cinematography
Summer job: Intern with Bay Kids, editing online videos
Major: Undergraduate in cinema
University: San Francisco State
Summer job: Making documentary in China
University: Notre Dame de Namur
Major: Musical theater
Summer job: Notre Dame de Namur student assistant