Indebted students find job hunting a struggle

23:00, Dec 10 2012

New Zealand's graduates now owe almost $13 billion in student loans, but many may struggle to land their dream career as the class of 2012 gets set to negotiate a tight job market, surveys show.

The student loans scheme annual report released by the Ministry of Education this month shows in the year to June 30, more than 700,000 people had a student loan with Inland Revenue.

Almost 60,000 of them were new borrowers, clocking up an average of $7633 per person in the financial year.

But student debtors may not be training for the career they end up in.

In a series of online polls conducted by job advertiser, 64 per cent of job hunters said their current job was not aligned to what they studied or trained in.

And the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA) has reported a "bleak" outlook for teaching graduates based on its own survey of 193 students, a third of whom had made 20 or more job applications this year, without success.


NZUSA president Pete Hodkinson said they would be addressing the delivery of teacher education in 2013 to determine whether supply was outweighing demand in the sector.

Massey University careers consultant John Ross said there were jobs available for graduates prepared to take "stepping stone" jobs.

"There is a mantra that it's easier to get a job from a job," he said.

"Although the job market might be tough, there are jobs out there, and graduates have to be creative about how they get [them] - whether they take stepping stone jobs with a certain career focus in mind to build skills, and build a network of contacts. They need to earn money, but do something constructive in the meantime."

Outgoing Massey University Students Association president Alex Jones is among this year's output of job-hungry graduates taking on the job market.

The reality for graduates was that they might have to take work that differed from their expectations, he said.

"I am looking for a job so I have got some first-hand experience. At the moment it is looking really tough."

Students were competing against higher-level applicants who had fallen victim to restructuring, he said.

"You get so many rejection letters you start to wonder who is getting all of these jobs, but you are up against a more experienced market."

School leavers were still better off seeking higher level education than hitting the job market without qualifications, Mr Jones said.

"What else are you going to do to upskill yourself? It's not like there is any other option. I think a lot more people are looking to get a higher education and are going to keep taking that option."

The Manawatu Standard