Grads’ job prospects bleak

Nearly 500 Cayman Islands students scheduled to graduate from public and private high schools in June face an uncertain job market.

higher education

John Gray High School Career Guidance Counsellor Margaret Jackson, right, discusses career options with Year 12 students at the job expo held at the University College of the Cayman Islands last week. Photo: Jewel Levy

Cayman high school graduates turned their backs on higher education to enter the job market in years gone by. But as tougher times loom, many school leavers are seeking higher education.

‘We are really trying to get the message across to school leavers that there are not too many jobs available to them right now,’ said Margaret Jackson, a career guidance counsellor at John Gray High School.

Mrs. Jackson said most good jobs require students to have more than a high school education. Some 30 years ago companies were willing to offer on-the-job training to school leavers, but that isn’t the case any longer.

Cayman Brac High School Principal Adrian Jones said the school encourages students to get a higher education if they want to make a decent living.

‘So far some have expressed the idea of going on to the University College of the Cayman Islands while others have started applications to colleges overseas,’ he said.

‘We are doing our best to prepare students who will be seeking employment Whether the jobs will be there is anyone’s guess.’

Mr. Jones said some students believe jobs will be waiting for them when they graduate.

Ms Jackson said most students are not worried about getting a job.

‘So far no student has expressed concern that they will not find a job,’ said Mrs. Jackson. ‘Only a few have come seeking advice to join the workforce after graduating, but that does not mean that others are not looking for employment.

‘Students have been told that even if they decide to get a job… once they are in the job, to take every opportunity for training.’

She said the school’s summer job experience programme is successful and most companies are willing to take on students for that programme. If students perform well and show an interest then they have a better chance of being hired after they finish high school.

There are also vocational programmes available at JGHS, such as architecture, engineering, mechanics, cooking, art, and electrical, which give students an advantage when they enter the workforce.

But according to Ms Jackson the majority of students express the desire to seek further education either here or overseas.

Ms Jackson said the school is preparing students will all the required knowledge to enter college or university.

A number of Year 12 students have expressed the desire to further their studies.

Yuliet Riverao said she wants to study Business Administration.

‘I am hoping to get a scholarship, but in the meantime I will be looking for full-time employment,’ she said. ‘Right now I am doing my finals and when the time comes, I will try and figure out what is next.’

Yuliet said a lot of her classmates expressed the idea of getting a job and working their way through college.

Jason Scott, another Year 12 student at John Gray, said he hopes to get accepted into a college overseas to study computer networking.

‘My goals are to come back with nothing less than a Bachelor’s and maybe get a job with Walkers or another big business,’ he said.

Some students already know what they want to do. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Watler plans to become a gourmet pastry cook and has already been accepted as a part-time trainee cook at the Ritz-Carlton in New York.

More then 300 students will graduate from John Gray this year. Cayman Brac High School will have 40 school-leavers, while Cayman Prep and High will have 47; Triple C, 29; and Cayman International School and Grace Academy, four each.