Our Chicago: The Class of 2020 Graduates From College & Enters The Workforce

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, April 28, 2024
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The class of 20-20 didn't experience the usual end-of-high school traditions. Thanks to the pandemic, they shifted to remote learning in March.

And when graduation came along, there wasn't a lot of pomp and circumstance. Instead, some students in the Chicago area pulled up in their cars, got out and collected their diplomas.

Others walked across the stage of a mostly empty auditorium. Now, four years later, things are much different and many of those students are graduating from college.

So what has the road from 2020 to 2024 been like for students and colleges? Justin Banks is a 2020 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School. Now, he's about to graduate from the University of Illinois Chicago with a degree in Integrated Health Studies.

How 2024 college graduates are managing the current job market after managing remote-learning during the pandemic.

"It was definitely a challenge," he said. "The transition from high school to college in normal circumstances is definitely not easy but under the pandemic it was definitely more of a challenge. From the social scene to the academic scene, thinking about taking all of my classes virtually, it was more challenging than I would expect. Even living in the dorm in that Covid era where I couldn't socialize with my friends as often as I would have liked."

He said the support he received from UIC and his church for pushing him to do his best academically despite the challenges.

"For us, this group of students is incredibly resilient," says Josephine Volpe, Associate Vice Provost for Advising Development at the University of Illinois Chicago. She says their students are extraordinary.

"Their adaptability is something that we talk about a lot. Their ability to overcome. Their thought processes, their challenges, their ability to express themselves with us and our opportunity to support them is also very different now. And so, I think they're amazing. So, we're very excited to be celebrating them at this time," Volpe said.

She says each student found their motivation in different ways.

"So each one of our students is unique and so how they experienced the pandemic may have been unique," she said. "They were dealing with healthcare, they were dealing with the health of themselves and others. And so for some of them, it was inspirational to be able to continue to do their work. And so I think some of it was really digging deep and overcoming and finding their joy in the ways that they could."

"I think the biggest thing for me, was adaptability," says Banks, "I feel like especially those first two years when we were still relatively remote, it taught me how to study different, how to figure out what I needed, how to prepare for exams in a different way than what we were used to." Next up for him, medical school at the University of Chicago.

Other members of the class of 2024 are headed into the workforce. So what is the the outlook for the job market?

How 2024 college graduates are managing the current job market after managing remote-learning during the pandemic.

"This is not the same economy that it was two years ago coming off of the Covid low and things were going 100 miles an hour," says Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of the Chicago staffing agency, LaSalle Network. "Things are definitely a little more tepid. And it's not as much as a bull market on the employment side as it has been. So I think when you're graduating from college, it's really important to have an idea of what industry you want to be in or what role you want to be in. Don't focus as much about today's dollars. Don't go work for free, but don't think 'Oh my friend last year got $60,000 so I should get 60.' Might not be that good."

As for hot jobs, Gimbel says says sales is always going to be in demand. Also IT. "And I don't mean tech companies as much as if you're a developer, if you're into working on hardware, if you enjoy doing software type of work there's a lot of technology stuff going on both in Chicago and around the country."

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