New graduates face uphill battle

Published 7:31 am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Did you notice all the faces…did you read all the names?

We here at Roanoke-Chowan Publications performed our annual salute to the current crop of high school graduates. That special 12-page edition published in Saturday’s (June 14) News-Herald and the June 18th edition of the Gates County Index. We’ve been honoring our local grads for as long as this old reporter can remember.

What I’ve always found intriguing about this annual effort is what the future holds for these young 17 and 18-year-olds. Did we snap a photo of a future president….Army General….the doctor that breaks the medical code and finds a cure for all cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or diabetes…or an NFL, NBA or MLB superstar?

Hopefully, the majority of those smiling faces featured within the pages of this special edition will decide to continue their education by attending the college or university of their choice. Some may opt for a military career; others may choose to immediately enter the workforce.

The latter road may prove a bit bumpy.

I’m not saying these current graduates aren’t prepared to go to work, but rather that jobs are hard to come by. And they can thank the very technology they now hold in their hands as the reason why jobs are scarce.

I don’t want to bore you with a “back in the day” story, but things sure were different when I graduated from high school and college. Jobs were plentiful back then, basically due to a lack of technology.

It was the fall semester of my sophomore year at what was then Chowan College that I first landed a part-time job for this newspaper. Even then, at the age of 19, I had already held down full time jobs at Fram Filters and Belk-Tylers, both located in Murfreesboro back in the early 1970’s. And that’s not counting working on the family farm during my time in high school.

When I first came to the News-Herald there were in excess of 100 full-time employees, basically because it was such a labor-intensive effort to publish a print product back in those days. Case-in-point: we had two, eight-hour shifts (with 15 employees per shift) just to handle typesetting and ad composition. Thanks to technology, that effort is now handled by one person.

Technology also impacted other newspaper production areas. I first learned the business by working in the offset camera room. That department no longer exists….ditto for all the film and chemicals we used as well.

The manual composition of newspaper pages, that once employed five full-time employees, is also a thing of the past. The newsroom (Gene Motley and I) now perform that task.

The point I’m trying to make here is that businesses of all shapes and sizes have downsized in manpower thanks to an upscale in technology. The 100-or-so individuals it took to produce a newspaper 40 years ago has dwindled to less than 20.

With less jobs to choose from and a growing number of individuals seeking employment – including another crop of fresh, young faces armed with their high school diplomas – competition is fierce to gain employment.

My advice to those new graduates is to arm yourselves with knowledge. I would recommend going to college, at least for two years and see where the road leads you from there.

And, no, not all are cut out to become white-collar workers. Find what you’re good at and stick with it….show up for work on time, don’t complain when asked to stay late and don’t  use lame excuses to skip a day of work. If you are lucky enough to score a job, show your boss that you’re there to work and the end reward is a paycheck and, more importantly, that your key still unlocks the door to your office.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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