By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting numerous areas of both student and professional life, Baylor students have still managed to get hired by local businesses and companies in the greater Waco area.
Shelby Cefaratti, marketing communication coordinator at Baylor University’s career center said she believes employers are working even harder and more creatively to get Baylor students to work for them, especially due to the new COVID-19 conditions challenging both the students and employers.
Cefaratti said these motivated employers including ones in the greater Waco area specifically, and that many graduating seniors have been able to receive jobs there.
“There was a law firm one of our students contacted down in Killeen just a couple of days ago about a social media manager position, and the next day he got an interview,” Cefaratti said.
Another example of a student Waco hire is Mary Schmid, Baylor graduate from the class of 2019. Originally from Michigan, Schmid said she decided to return to Waco after graduation to accept a job from the Brazos River Authority as their public information coordinator.
“I’ve always wanted to work in government relations and I’m really passionate about environmental issues so I decided to apply. With the city’s recent growth, there are plenty of job opportunities here,” Schmid said. “Even though I haven’t lived in Waco for that long as an alumna, I have been loving it so far.”
Cefaratti said that Patti Hueston, Waco employer specialist, can bridge the gap between Baylor graduates like Schmid and employers based locally, making the transition process from school to workplace simpler on both the student and the employee.
“[Hueston] actually has her really interesting position that is split between the City of Waco and Baylor University. The goal was to keep the undergraduates in Waco because that improves the life in Waco as a whole,” Cefaratti said. “So she’s continually working with both students and with the local employers to find good matches. And that includes internships, part time jobs, and full time positions. And that goes beyond just Waco, that’s the greater area.”
“When students come [to Baylor], they often don’t know about what kind of opportunities in diversity of industries there are,” Hueston said. “They often will miss opportunities and have routinely said they don’t really know are in Waco.”
Hueston said this is the point of the hiring process in which she meets with businesses on the behalf of the City of Waco or the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce to discuss employment for Baylor students.
“They tell us they can’t find employees. So we knew there was a mismatch that they weren’t connecting,” Hueston said.
If students are interested in remaining in the Waco area after graduation for work, Hueston said they typically start working with advisors in the career center.
Once those students are pinpointed as “interested to stay in the Waco area,” Hueston intercedes, working alongside with the advisor, to “identify opportunity” for those particular students.
“Conversely, the businesses, when they have a job opening, they’ll reach out to me. We direct them to Handshake, and then those jobs are posted for the students to be able to go into Handshake and search for job opportunities as they [are] ready,” Hueston said.
She said the life cycle of a job is anywhere between four weeks to potentially a couple of months after being posted.
Some of the companies Hueston has worked with in the last 6 months to assist students in getting jobs include, but are not limited to: L3 Harris Technologies, City of Waco, Texas Farm Bureau, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Brazos River Authority, 1519 Surveying and Sherwin-Williams.
“From December 2018 through February of 2020, there were 122 jobs posted for college students [in the greater Waco area]. Those jobs get posted not just to students … they could be something that is applicable to someone who is already working and just looking to change jobs,” Hueston said. “73% of those, or 85 [jobs], were filled by Waco college grads.”
Overall, Cefaratti said she is very impressed with the feedback they have received from seniors thus far in the semester, both working in the Waco area and abroad.
“The students have been taking advantage of the phone and video appointments. We’ve had close to 600 appointments in the past few weeks,” Cefaratti said.
Cefaratti also said that the First Destination Survey (FDS) , which gathers information about students and their plans post-graduation, already has a 90% knowledge rate for this year’s senior class.
“The national average is around 40%,” Cefaratti said. “We hit 99.4% last spring, and we’ve been striving to hit close to 100% each time. So the fact that we’re at 90% a few weeks before graduation, we’re thrilled with and especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Both Cefaratti and Hueston said they suggested students facing adversity while finding a job first and foremost contact the Career Center.
“[The career center advisors] are there to help and there are so many resources available that are obviously free. There is a lot of resources available that students seem to overlook,” Hueston said.
Additionally, Cefaratti said that the Career Center’s monthly newsletter that was sent out to all students’ emails on Wednesday afternoon included articles listing all of the companies in the country currently hiring.
“It even lists which ones are in a hiring freeze, which ones are hiring, which ones are hiring traditionally or remotely,” Cefaratti said.
Cefaratti said she suggests students to remain optimistic if they’ve experienced trouble looking for work, and to “stay proactive.”
“Contact us, because we understand how hard it all is,” Cefaratti said. “Sometimes it’s just connecting the dots between the students skill set and this company’s need.”