For some college students heading into the workplace, finding a job and embarking on a career may just be the toughest test of all.
At UC Davis, student and campus leaders are working to change that calculus by launching a new five-year plan Tuesday to increase job opportunities for students on- and off-campus.
The university's jobs initiative plans to boost the numbers of jobs for students on campus, better prepare students for employment opportunities once they graduate and work with alumni entrepreneurs to recruit and hire UC Davis grads once they enter the workplace.
"Aggies helping Aggies," said senior Yena Bue, vice president of Associated Students University of California, Davis. "We're scrambling for jobs. In a large campus, it's incredibly hard for students to get plugged in" to career opportunities.
"We're trying to get students plugged into these doors," Bue said. "We're trying to urge Aggies to hire alumni. We want to employ Davis students."
Today, about 8,000 students are employed on campus during the academic year, said Rebecca Sterling, outgoing student body president. The initiative hopes to improve on those numbers.
There are also plans to develop a website to track future student hiring and an annual event to update the campus community on the progress made.
A career fair at UC Davis' Freeborn Hall on Tuesday was a first step. Alumni business owners, campus internship counselors and career advisers met students one-on-one to dispense advice, share leads and offer encouragement.
"I think it's a great opportunity for students to get a first taste of the real world," said Bill Hollingshead, a Davis talent agent and UC Davis graduate, class of 1960, between chats with students.
It's also a way for the Davis alum to give back to his alma mater.
"I have the heart of a farmer," said Hollingshead, 75. "I gather such a harvest from this campus. All of this knowledge goes away unless you share it."
Andrew Elliot, a fifth-year senior majoring in psychology and history, is in the midst of his job search. Events like Tuesday's, he said, are useful to make connections with alumni and other employers.
"The job search has been a little discouraging so far," Elliot said. "I feel I have to work to convince employers that my skills would work on an employable level."
The initiative's timing could help students like Elliot, said Marcie Kirk-Holland, program director at UC Davis' Internship and Career Center.
An improving economy has drawn more employers to Davis and other college campuses and education dollars freed by last fall's Proposition 30 are starting to shake loose student hiring, Kirk-Holland said. She hopes the campus's jobs push takes advantage of the new momentum.
"The climate is much better. We saw the first inkling of improvement in 2012. More companies are coming to our career fairs and now they're coming because they're hiring," Kirk-Holland said. "The timing is positive."