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Wyoming Jobs Are Tough To Find For UW Grads

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Wyoming is facing difficult economic times. Last year, the state lost 6,500 jobs, mostly in oil and gas, and things haven’t much better this year. The state government is making major reductions and even Wyoming Medical Center in Casper cut 58 positions. For that reason, right now is a tough time for University of Wyoming’s graduates to enter the job force, particularly if they want to stay in the state.

This May, over fourteen hundred students graduated from the University of Wyoming. For many of those students, this is their first time entering the professional workforce.

Tom Gallagher is the Manager of Research and Planning for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. It’s his job to take a hard look at the numbers. He says, “having to tell this story is not a pleasant thing, it’s really difficult to see what’s going, to see the struggles that people have.”

Gallagher says the job market stopped seeing growth during the first quarter of 2015 and has since continued to decline. Last month unemployment was at 5-point-five percent. That’s slightly higher than the national rate of 5-percent. For that reason, Gallagher says he is glad he is not graduating this spring with the intent of going to work in Wyoming.

But not everyone feels this way.

Jo Chytka is the Director of the Center for Advising and Career Services at the University of Wyoming. The center on campus helps students prepare for the job market. She says she’d be excited if she was a May 16th graduate.

“I know that the economic news in Wyoming hasn’t been great, but we have had students that have found opportunities in this state.”

Chykta says a lot of those students were hired as teachers and nurses. Nursing remains strong, but school districts are now facing budget cuts, which could impact the number of teachers hired in the future.

Gallagher says there’s another issue that could make finding a job difficult in Wyoming. Students aren’t the only ones entering the job market. He says so are those workers that have been recently laid off.

“We know that there is hiring going on, but the competition by experienced workers is very, very stiff.”

Gallagher says the few available openings are likely to be given to those workers with experience. Ultimately, there are too many unemployed people and not enough jobs. But Gallagher says, outside of Wyoming, prospects are brighter. 

According to Gallagher, both Colorado and Utah are vying for first and second place in terms of growth in the country. In fact, Denver is the fastest-growing large city in the nation right now, according to census data. For that reason, Colorado has a very different problem than Wyoming. Chytka says they have a supply and demand issue—there aren’t enough people to take the jobs that the state has available.

But Texas is another state that is hiring. That’s where Akash Gondalia is going. The Cheyenne native got a degree in Electrical Engineering from UW. He’s has taken a job in Dallas with Texas Instruments. He say’s for the industry he wanted to work in—semi-conductors—there’s not a whole lot going on in Wyoming.

Gondalia says he took the first and only job offer he got, but it was always a goal of his to leave the state after college. He says he’s lived in Wyoming his whole life and wanted to find out what it’s like to live in a city. However, Gondalia does not rule out a return to the state.

“If that dream job did show up that was close to family, it’d be pretty hard to turn that down. I’m pretty close with my family, got plenty of friends around here, so it’d be pretty difficult to turn that down.”

Wyoming officials launched a big push to keep UW graduates in the state, but with the current economic climate, students are forced to go elsewhere.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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