Top national jobs not common in El Paso, students consider leaving

Lorain Watters, Assistant News Editor

As the unemployment rates in El Paso remain high, recent college graduates are often faced with making the decision to move out of the city in order to find a job that pertains to their career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top jobs nationally are management, business, the computer industry, architecture and social science. However, those job opportunities may not be available in El Paso.

The most common occupations in El Paso for men are truck drivers, management, laborers and mechanics. For women, they are education, facility cleaning, management and health care.

The BLS has reported the national unemployment rate at 7.3 percent as of 2013, a steady decrease from January of this year. El Paso’s unemployment rate is currently at 9.3 percent, steadily rising from 8.9 percent in February 2013.

The number of students who find jobs after graduation is not kept account of by the University Career Center.

Rodrigo Rodriguez, senior electrical engineering major, hopes to attend the University of Texas at Austin for a master’s program in electrical engineering.

“Either that or go into my professional career if it’s the best option,” Rodriguez said. “I really don’t want to leave, but I think the concentration for the master’s program at UT is closely related to what I want to do.”

Rodriguez believes that the professional opportunities in El Paso are scarce compared to Austin or other cities.

“There are some opportunities in El Paso, but there are far more outside of it,” Rodriguez said. “While it may not be their first choice, sometimes that’s their only choice once they graduate.”

In an article written by the New York Times, “Many Young El Pasoans Find They Can Go Home Again,” young professionals returning to El Paso is becoming more common.

Julian Aguilar, author of the article, said new businesses in El Paso are improving the quality of life on the border and have led to the increase in expatriates coming home.

This is true for Roxana Rodriguez, sophomore nursing major, who wants to leave El Paso, but return after she has accomplished her goals.

“I would like to stay away from home for a while and expand my knowledge towards the unknown,” Rodriguez said. “The idea of exploring new places, adapting to a new life style and the idea of being on my own is an adventure that I’m absolutely looking forward to.”

However, Lorenzo Tena, junior art major, feels that El Paso lacks what he needs to be successful in his career and does not plan on returning to the city.

“I want to work for a video game company,” Tena said. “There are virtually zero opportunities like that here and I just don’t feel like El Paso is the city for me.”

New Student Life coordinator shares story of her return.

Like Rodriguez, Cemelli de Aztlan, a new coordinator of student life, grew up in El Paso. She left El Paso in order to see the world and study Native American culture, of which she identifies with, but faced a constant struggle while away.

“My high school years were never consistent. I was one of those students who couldn’t sit,” de Aztlan said. “I was in the gifted and talented program and the honors program, but I still wasn’t being challenged. I dropped out of high school three times because I struggled with the institution and the way they ran it.”

She graduated from Riverside High School and she decided to attend Concordia University in Austin where she received a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies with a focus on pre-seminary studies. De Aztlan was the first woman accepted into the program and said it was one of her many challenges.

“Going into a predominately white college, and I was one of two minority students, it was a culture shock since it was tight-knit community,” de Aztlan said. “I almost dropped out of college too, but I was challenged by one of my professors when he told me to stay.”

De Aztlan was later invited to study at Harvard University, where she earned a master’s degree in divinity.

“I think it’s funny that kids that leave are awarded some kind of success story. ‘Oh you left El Paso? Good!’ But I think that is changing rapidly,” de Aztlan said. “The decade I was gone, El Paso was going through a lot of changes. Coming back, it feels like home, but it’s definitely changed. In that change, to have people invested in this community, is really valuable and that was at the forefront of my decision of why I decided to come back, to be a part of that conversation of change in El Paso – creating El Paso to be more of a welcoming, creative space.”

During her time at Harvard, de Aztlan advocated strongly for the voices of Native Americans to be heard, eventually creating a group called Native Voices that was alternative model of education for Native American students.

Her advocacy also led to the creation of an indigenous spirituality program (at Harvard), where a class is taught every year.

When offered a position as coordinator of Student Life, de Aztlan jumped at the opportunity and set foot at UTEP for the first time.

“What I’m really excited about working here in the Student Life department and the programs we have in this department—Mine Tracker and the 21st Century Scholars Program— I feel like those programs are macrocosms of what I went through as a student,” she said. “I see those programs and I see myself as a student in the back row and quiet because of my culture shock. I really needed mentors to sculpt me and help me become what I walked through those doors to be.”

De Aztlan said she believes that leaving El Paso for exploration and growth helps a person evolve,, but at the same time a balance must be met.

“I find my foundation and roots to be very connected to home, family and the physical land here. I would say to those students, come back when you’re ready because we’re making a nice home here,” de Aztlan said. “There are gems and nuggets of beauty here, and there is enough to explore here, but we do need a global perspective to be citizens of this world and this community—there is a balance between the two. We have a lot to be proud of here and it took me leaving to see that.”

Lorain Watters may be reached at [email protected]