College degrees often not enough to find jobs, security back in metro Detroit

Clifton Howard
Clifton Howard, 21, worries about returning to Detroit because of the economy, crime and political corruption.

By Eric Kiska
Motor City Muckraker

Young adults who moved from metro Detroit and returned after college are having trouble finding jobs in the area’s tough economy. And those who are in college are hesitant to move back to the area.

Paul Brucker

Paul Brucker, 22, grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods and graduated from Grosse Pointe North High School. He recently received a bachelor’s degree from Hope College in chemistry and communications. He also attended the Medical Sales College in Denver, Colo., a post-graduate program specializing in medical sales.

When he moved back to metro Detroit to live with his parents, he started looking for jobs in the medical sales field. He was rejected by nearly every company he applied for within the first three months.

“One of my biggest mistakes was sitting on my computer and applying to jobs online,” Brucker recalled. “And I remember: the first week after I got done, I got about 30 no’s.”

Despite national media touting Detroit as a new, desirable location for young people, serious issues including unemployment and crime remain. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at the end of 2013, Detroit’s unemployment was still at 14.6% – more than twice the national average.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at the end of 2010 the percentage of people living in Detroit from the ages of 18-24 was at 10.27% compared to 14.19% for people between the ages of 45-54.

“It’s very difficult to find a job around metro Detroit,” Brucker said. “There’s a lot of smart people around here but the economy isn’t doing too well. I got very far in an interview process with Mako (a medical sales company) but came up short to somebody with a P.
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H.D. There’s a lot of qualified people in this area.”

Six months after graduating he finally found a job as a medical device sales representative at Integra Spine, a Dearborn company that specializes in selling medical devices specifically for spinal surgery. He got this job by networking and shaking the right hands.

“I went out and was pro-active. No one is going to hire someone if they have no idea who they are. You just got to put yourself out there, go network, and try to shake the right person’s hand and get a job. It’s lucky in one sense, but you still have to work for it because you’ve got to put yourself in those situations.”

Clifton Howard

Clifton Howard, 21, an east-side Detroiter and graduate of University Prep High School in Detroit, currently attends Northern Michigan University in Marquette, majoring in accounting and corporate finance. To help support his 1-year-old daughter, Lillia, he works as a gas station clerk.

He enjoys living away from the city and the crime that comes with it. He knows that Detroit offers more than a rural area does, but he’s hesitant to move back.

Howard says: “It has more opportunities as far as my career. More people who need their taxes done, and more businesses with bigger opportunities. Up here there’s only a select few. So Detroit is where the opportunity is. But at the same time, there is still crime. I would like to move back, but I would like to move away from the crime.

“My plan for after graduation is focusing on getting certified in everything. Then I’ll start applying for jobs. You have to take a lot of tests in order to be a financial analyst or accountant. All of that stuff falls under the same umbrella.”

Howard isn’t positive the economy will improve after he graduates. He didn’t live far away from where “the action was” (the crime), and is well aware of the political corruption Detroit has been known for in the last 20 years. Howard believes that Detroit’s political and criminal reputation may hurt the city’s economy.

“The economy has more factors than we can even think of,” Howard said. “You know if the people in office are doing what Kwame Kilpatrick did or what some of the other politicians have done, then Detroit’s economy is not going to go anywhere. Detroit is just going to have the same reputation, people and businesses won’t want to move here. We just won’t make progress.”

Eric Kiska

Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.