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Report compares number of college graduates, available jobs in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - About 92 students will graduate from West Virginia colleges this year with degrees in chemistry. At that time, there will be only 14 jobs available in that field.

That's according to a new report on the state of education and the job market. The study, released Monday by West Liberty University, looks at the occupations with the largest job growth in the last decade and compares openings in those fields to the number of students graduating from all state colleges with degrees in those fields.

Graduates from public and private universities and community colleges are all included.

The project's lead researcher, West Liberty economist Serkan Catma, mined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Workforce West Virginia and the state Higher Education Policy Commission. Catma used the wealth of available data to paint a more complete portrait of West Virginia's employment landscape.  

"We mainly hear about this or that specific occupation that is going to be the hot job," Catma said. "Nobody looks at the other side . . . we have to also look at the number of graduates before we make decisions."

In some areas, Catma's research largely reinforced ideas officials and administrators have been putting forth for years - there will, in fact, continue to be a nursing shortage in West Virginia, the research shows. In fact, Catma said, West Virginia schools would need to double the number of students graduating with nursing degrees in coming years to counter demand.

Some of the data was surprising.

Engineering, touted in recent years as a foolproof major with plenty of potential job growth, isn't always a promising field in West Virginia. Catma predicts a surplus of graduates in the civil, industrial and mechanical engineering fields. Only computer engineering will see more available jobs than graduates in the state.

The data isn't perfect.

Catma's estimates include the assumption that about a quarter of West Virginia graduates will find work outside the state. But that's just a guess, because no one keeps track of those numbers.

There's no real way to know that most of those engineers won't move out of state to find jobs, for example. And there's no way to know that some of those chemistry majors won't go on to medical school - though they may not fare much better afterward, because there are 60 percent more people graduating with medical degrees than there are available jobs.

Still, Catma said, students deserve to know that their computer sciences degree will be in demand in West Virginia after graduation (44 percent more jobs than West Virginia graduates) or that they may have a hard time finding a job in finance (nearly 60 percent more graduates than available jobs).   

"This isn't enough for you to look at it and make a decision," he said. "But this is way better than simple employment projections . . . we need to know where we're already producing enough graduates."  

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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