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Job fields in Wis. being restored for college graduates

November 18, 2011

Dylan Romanoski, an English education major at UW-River Falls, said that he hopes to teach in a junior high or high school after graduation. But numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, or DWD, show that he might need to look outside of the state to find a job.

Wisconsin ranks third to last in the U.S. in projected job growth for secondary school teachers, with employment in that field expected to drop two percent by 2018. In comparison, Texas is expected to see a 31 percent increase by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the DWD.

University administrators criticized state-ordered budget lapse cuts last month, stating that the disproportionate burden placed on the UW-System will stymie economic growth in the state. But with graduates being forced to look outside of Wisconsin for work, stories like Romanoski’s question if UW schools are actually preparing students for the kinds of jobs that are available in Wisconsin. At UWRF, the answer is a mixed bag.

UWRF conferred degrees to 1,141 graduates during the 2010-2011 academic year. However, fewer than 30 percent of those degrees were related to occupations labeled “high growth” by the Wisconsin government.

The website for the state-sponsored Wisconsin Workforce and Labor Market Information System, also known as WORKnet, lists 25 occupations projected to be the fastest growing in the state from 2008 to 2018. Only four of the listed occupations require a bachelor’s degree: network systems and data communications analyst, financial examiner, athletic trainer and personal finance advisor.

The fastest growing occupation requiring a bachelor’s degree is network systems and data communication analyst. It is projected to reach 10,760 jobs in Wisconsin by 2018, up 36.9 percent from 2008, according to the WORKnet website.

UWRF offers a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information systems, and conferred 25 such degrees during the 2010-2011 academic year, the most since 2005. However, they only account for approximately two percent of all degrees conferred last year, according to data provided by the UWRF Registrar’s Office.

Despite the low correlation between conferred degrees and high-growth jobs, there are signs that the University is having a positive impact on the Wisconsin economy, according to UWRF and UW-System reports.

The UW-System aims to grow the Wisconsin economy by creating well paying jobs through university-level research, and by increasing conferred degrees in “high-need” fields, according to the Growth Agenda Accountability Report, an annual document compiled by the UW-System Office of Policy Analysis and Research that tracks the impact of the UW-System on the state.

The results at UWRF appear to be promising. The University increased spending on research last year to a five-year high, as well as conferred more than 300 degrees in “high-need and leading-edge fields” like science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health, according to the 2010-2011 UWRF accountability report.

UWRF student Daniel Van Dyke is studying to enter one of those leading-edge fields. Originally an accounting major, he switched focus to biochemistry in 2009.

“Biochemistry is just more challenging and interesting to me,” Van Dyke said. “Finding a career wasn’t a factor because I knew there would be jobs out there.”

The numbers seem to agree: the job outlook for biochemists is expected to grow 27 percent in Wisconsin by 2018, according to the DWD.