Santa Cruz Job Market: Expanding but Limited

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Soon-to-be UC Santa Cruz graduates who aren’t ready to leave the community may be in luck, as jobs across all fields within the county are expanding alongside a budding tech industry.

Industries across the board are predicted to have more job openings, according to the Santa Cruz county Economic Data. Similar to national trends, markets in science technology engineering and math (STEM) fields are experiencing more growth than markets related to social science such as art or journalism.

The most growth has occurred in sectors that typically pay well, said county workforce development board director Andy Stone. The healthcare and technology industry in Santa Cruz is forecasted to have an average annual job increase of 1.5 percent. Although growth is .5 percent lower than the national average, this rate of growth is still strong for a small city like Santa Cruz as most metro area job growth grows by less than 1 percent.

“The county has a lot of tech companies in the area that are willing to provide jobs to UCSC students,” said fifth-year computer science major Danay Weldegabriel, who is actively seeking employment within Santa Cruz County.

Facilities like Plantronics and Fullpower Technologies, local tech companies in the Santa Cruz area, actively seek out Santa Cruz students by attending UCSC career and internship fairs held every quarter. This allows students in Santa Cruz to gain insight of the tech world by working in their county rather than commuting to tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Weldegabriel said.

The same cannot be said for students in the social science and humanities. Santa Cruz County careers in the community and social service industries are expected to have a job increase of only 208, while the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media industry is expected to have an additional increase of 57 jobs combined.

“Santa Cruz has limitations because it is not an urban area, so not every profession is represented here,” said UCSC Career Center director Barbara Silverthorne.

Despite the lack of job market diversity, some students including fifth-year art major Jerome Reed III counteract this disparity by making connections within the Santa Cruz community.

Because Santa Cruz County has a minimal art community, Reed created his own path into the industry. Through networking, Reed established his own business. After his official graduation last year, he used the connections he made in the county with fellow artists, photographers and entrepreneurs to help him launch a fashion line.

Networking both during and after college is crucial to securing a job in the real world, Silverthorne said. In general, about 70-80 percent of jobs are not published or advertised on company websites, according to NPR. The vast majority of hiring is corporations interviewing the friends and families of trusted colleagues, which puts those without the privilege of a built-in network at a disadvantage.

Fifth-year engineering major Danay Weldegabriel acquired a lot of his first interviews from major tech companies through the connections he made in Santa Cruz county. Regardless of the industry, making connections in a community as small as Santa Cruz is crucial to obtain a job.    

“It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know,” Danay Weldegabriel said. “Getting a job directly out of college regardless of your major is extremely difficult. […] in order to get an interview you need to know someone in the business.”

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Farrah Safari is the Campus Desk editor at City on a Hill Press. She reported for city desk from winter to spring quarter of 2018. During this time, she found that her passion for journalism centered around investigative reporting— uncovering corrupt institutions and revealing the truth behind oppressive systems and practices. She is a literature and sociology double major with a concentration in world studies and a proposed film and digital media minor. Although she focuses most of her energy on City on a Hill Press she is also the vice president of ADCMP, the African Dysphoria Chain Mentorship Program, a member of African Student Union (ASU) and participates in slam poetry competitions.