‘The intern has become the new entry-level hire’

by Grace

Because of technology, many entry-level jobs require more advanced skills.  This means that internships, either unpaid or low-paid, have sometimes become the new entry-level jobs.

Companies bruised by the recession have stayed lean by automating and outsourcing core functions while slashing training budgets and payrolls. But in an effort to cut costs, some companies also have cut entry-level jobs that serve as a crucial first step on the path to a professional career. And others have made the responsibilities for first-timers more sophisticated, raising the bar for new graduates, who are expected to arrive job-ready from day one.

Here’s how some entry-level accounting jobs now require sophisticated skills.

Four years ago, the Boston-based bank began an overhaul of its technology systems to cut costs and streamline operations. Now, as the project nears its end, the company is assessing how to employ fund accountants when some of their main assignments—such as calculating funds’ net asset values—have been automated, said Executive Vice President Kathy Horgan, who oversees talent management.

The job titles are the same, but the responsibilities have shifted significantly from a few years ago. Instead of memorizing 15 or 20 steps in a calculation process, fund accountants at the bank now must be able to identify anomalies, help resolve software glitches and figure out which other teams they should work with. In some cases, they must also call clients directly, Ms. Horgan said, putting a new premium on people skills.

At the same time that entry jobs are becoming more demanding, many employers are reducing their training budgets.

For example, training programs for sales jobs at major corporations regularly lasted two years in the 2000s, teaching the ins and outs of the products they were selling and explaining market trends for distributors and end users. Now, new hires would be lucky to get six months of ramp-up time, said Andrea Dixon, executive director of Baylor University’s Center for Professional Selling …

The squeeze in on for job seekers in some fields, while other areas have seen increases in entry-level jobs.

Negative outlook:  loan officers, insurance underwriters and credit analysts
Positive outlook:  computer systems analysts, public relations specialists, social-media managers

As always, luck plays a role in the job outlook for new college graduates.

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Lauren Weber & Melissa Korn, “Where Did All the Entry-Level Jobs Go?”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6, 2014.

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