QCA graduates look for jobs amid bleak jobs report

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Coming off the heels of a bleak jobs report, Quad City graduates prepare to enter the workforce among uncertainty.

They’re cooking up lifelong careers at Scott Community College, where Tracie Hildebrandt’s been studying for three years as part of a work-school apprenticeship program.

“They have the opportunity to make whatever dish in class, they know how to do it and they can apply it to work and say ‘Hey chef, look what I made,” said Hildebrandt, who just landed a job as head baker at Isle of Capri.

But, it didn’t come easy.

“I had the crappiest jobs,” she said. “I was the dishwasher. You have to work your way up.”

Hildebrandt’s is a rare success story these days amid uncertain economic conditions and a rising unemployment rate which, last month, increased to 8.2 percent, the first rise since last June.

Western Illinois University’s Head of Engineering, Bill Pratt, acknowledges the challenge some graduates faced, especially in the years following the 2008 mortgage crisis.

“There was kind of a temporary downturn in engineering,” said Pratt.

But, it’s a much brighter outlook here now.

“The companies in this area are really, really hungry for our students,” he said.

As for newly minted employees like Hildebrandt, the bottom line is “when you work hard, you get the better jobs.”

According to industry experts, jobs in healthcare and information technology lead the way in terms of availability in the Quad City area.