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More graduates stay: NDSU study shows natives, Minnesotans find jobs here

Denise Lindblom reaches her hand through a hole in a neonatal intensive care crib at MeritCare Hospital and pulls the oxygen hood away from tiny Hope Stramer's head.

Denise Lindblom reaches her hand through a hole in a neonatal intensive care crib at MeritCare Hospital and pulls the oxygen hood away from tiny Hope Stramer's head.

The tube in Lindblom's hand feeds a visible, soothing stream of humidified oxygen to the

4-pound, 3-ounce premature baby.

For Lindblom, a 2002 graduate of North Dakota State University, it's exactly what she wants to be doing -- and right where she wants to be doing it.

"I wanted to stay around the area, and I really wanted to do neonatal and pediatrics, and this is the smallest big town where I could do that," she said.


A new five-year employment study by NDSU shows that a higher percentage of graduates are finding jobs in North Dakota than did five years ago.

The center has released an annual employment report on undergraduate degree recipients every year since 1994-95. But this is the first year the center compiled data on where they found jobs.

The information was collected through mail surveys, follow-up phone calls and inquiries to academic departments. The center surveyed undergraduate students who earned degrees from NDSU in December 2002, May 2003 and August 2003.

Of those who found work, 52 percent were employed in North Dakota last year, compared with 42 percent in 1999, the study found.

"This really is a sign, I think, that graduates really are securing employment in North Dakota," said Jill Wilkey, director of the NDSU Career Center.

The survey was answered by 1,305 of the 1,437 graduates, and 944 reported being employed.

Of those, 492 stayed to work in North Dakota, 263 had jobs in Minnesota, 11 worked in South Dakota, eight were employed in Montana and 170 worked in other states or countries.

An increasing number of native North Dakotans graduating from NDSU have found jobs in the state, from 59 percent in 1999 to more than 68 percent last year.


The percentage of Minnesota natives who stayed to work in North Dakota after graduating from NDSU also jumped, from 24 percent in 1999 to 32 percent last year, the survey found.

Lindblom fits into that category. The Fergus Falls, Minn., native spent her first two years at Fergus Falls Community College before transferring to NDSU. She interned at MeritCare as part of a long-standing cooperative agreement between the hospital and university.

Lindblom said she tried life in the Twin Cities, but settled on Fargo.

"I did some clinicals down there for a week, and I wasn't a big fan of the traffic," she said. "I'm a small-town person."

MeritCare currently has 13 respiratory therapy majors interning there. The hospital hopes to hire 10 or 12 after they graduate, spokesman Darren Huber said.

"Like nursing, there's a real high demand," he said.

In the last three years, 60 percent of NDSU respiratory therapy grads have stayed in North Dakota. Forty-percent of those who have graduated from the program since 1989 are still employed in the state.

The top five employers of 2003 NDSU graduates were MeritCare, with 34 hires; NDSU, 28; North Dakota state government departments, 16; Fargo Public School District, 15; and the U.S. military, 14.


Efforts pay off

Wilkey offered several possible reasons why more NDSU grads in general are finding work in North Dakota.

Recent attention given to the state's out-migration problem has created an awareness among employers that NDSU has "excellent human capital," she said.

"I also like to believe that NDSU is responding well to what business wants," she said, noting a number of curriculum changes and new degree offerings.

The 2001 Roundtable on Higher Education also placed a greater emphasis on higher education's role in economic development, and employers have begun efforts to establish more internships for students, Wilkey said.

"I also like to think that the Career Center does a good job of marketing our students to employers," she said.

North Dakota Job Service also encourages employers to hire locally, providing access to students' resumes on the Web site www.jobs

nd.com., said Marty Aas, customer service manager at the Fargo Job Service office.

"I think we've traditionally had a low unemployment rate, and if the graduates can find a job here, that's great," he said.

Bismarck native Jennifer Tomanek earned a business degree from NDSU last May and applied for five or six jobs in Fargo-Moorhead before getting hired to audit trust funds at State Bank & Trust of Fargo.

"It was just something I applied for, and I started the week after I graduated," she said. "I was lucky I found something."

Seven percent of the survey's respondents said they were still active in a job search, while 21 percent were seeking post-baccalaureate or professional degrees.

Respondents reported an average annual salary of $33,108. By employment field, electrical engineers had the highest average salary, at roughly $47,000.

Doctors of pharmacy, which were tallied separately from the rest of the university, reported an average starting salary of $81,000, with a high of $97,000.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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