Flowers, regalia and photos with loved ones are the usual images associated with graduation week, but for many it means facing the harsh realities of the job market.
Thousands of University of Auckland students graduated last week, but many have yet to find work in their field or are contemplating looking for it elsewhere.
Among them is Chanelle Lim, 22, who has graduated with a conjoint Bachelor of Commerce and Health Sciences.
She says it is “frustrating and demoralising” that although she has internship experience and has been published in the British Medical Journal group, she has had to look outside her field for employment.
“It is difficult to break into the health management industry when experience is needed for even the lowest-tier jobs.”
The opportunity of work overseas is alluring, and she has already begun seeking jobs in Australia and Singapore.
She says it is a shame because she is very passionate about improving health in New Zealand.
“I believe I can make a difference to the health of the population, given the opportunity to do so.”
Omar Hashemi, 25, has graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a sports science major. He is still looking for work, but has been forced to apply for entry to further education so that he can be considered for most jobs.
“It’s a very open degree and you have a lot of different pathways that you can go into, but they’re not fully developed yet in New Zealand, so you need to do postgraduate study.”
His goal is to work as an exercise physiologist, but he says there is only one centre in Auckland, and the development of more centres is extremely slow.
“Even in this one centre, treatment is extremely expensive, and most of the patients go to see doctors instead because it’s cheaper.”
He tried to find work in personal training to get him through postgraduate study, but even that requires specific courses and certificates.
“Most of the students who studied with me have to take other courses to find work. A lot of people are lost, including me, and many people start over and do other degrees.”
Charles Denis is an economics and international business major. He has been able to find work, but again, not in his area of speciality.
He says he has also been looking to Australia for work opportunities.
“The job market in New Zealand is really bad at the moment due to high overseas competition.”
An OECD annual report shows New Zealand ranks very poorly in tertiary education spending. It ranked at the bottom of the developed world in salary gains from university degrees, showing graduates in New Zealand were less likely to earn more-than-average income with a tertiary qualification than in other countries.
On average, the net worth of a tertiary qualification in New Zealand is $52,471, compared to $115,287 in Australia and $329,552 in the United States.