The plight of Nevada’s entry-level workers

To the editor:

It is a terrible time to begin a career in Nevada. Period.

In a state that boasts the highest unemployment rate in the nation (12.4 percent), where government programs continue to come under fire, and where the economy is largely dependent on discretionary income, it is tough to get your foot in the door. Indeed, the entry-level job seeker is faced with the perfect storm here in Nevada.

I should know. As a master’s student in his last semester at UNLV, I see the prospect of attaining work in my field very grim. Partially sheltered by my ability to borrow to support my studies, the reality of an unsuccessful job search has yet to fully set in for me. But as an active job seeker since April, the thought of leaving town for work has transformed from a possibility to a near certainty.

My concerns extend beyond personal interest, though.

If my job search continues to be unsuccessful past graduation, there is always the opportunity to find work elsewhere (Utah has an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent). But what does that say for our state? I attended UNR for my bachelor’s degree and then moved to Las Vegas to earn a master’s in health care administration and policy come December, so I will be the proud holder of two Nevada higher education degrees.

But to what effect? What good does it do the state to subsidize the costs of my education (and others like me) if local businesses are not willing to absorb entry-level talent into the work force?

In a state that already ranks among the worst in terms of an educated work force, the impending exodus of Nevada graduates only stands to exacerbate the issue.

I am no expert on the subject, but from an employer’s point of view, the logic behind current recruitment practices seems quite simple. Higher unemployment rates afford a larger labor pool and the ability to be more selective. A surplus of unemployed and underemployed workers drives the minimum qualification criteria for a position up and simultaneously drives wages down. As a result, you get over-qualified and underpaid workers. Which is why employers couldn’t be happier.

I would argue, however, that the short-term benefits of the current scenario will be overshadowed by the long-term detriments of a statewide brain drain.

In a city that claims to be serious about diversifying its economy and attracting new businesses, I cannot think of a better way to undermine this effort.

The story of my job seeking woes is largely anecdotal. I can speak only for myself. And I know that Las Vegas residents of all walks of life face unemployment or underemployment. To suggest that a new graduate is more deserving of a job than anyone else is far from my point. I just can’t help but notice the dark clouds ahead for our state.

What local employers need to realize is that a job can mean so much more than just a paycheck. For the matriculating student trying to find his place in the world, a job could mean the place to buy his first house and start a family. Moreover, employment could mean taking ownership of the community, supporting local businesses and having a vested interest in the city’s future.

In short, Nevada employers cannot afford to exploit our depressed economy the way they are now. If and when our economy makes a comeback (someday!), they will be glad to have retained my class of ill-timed graduates. For my own good, the good of my classmates and the good of the Silver State, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep Nevada graduates in Nevada.

Dominic Henriques

Las Vegas

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