Atlanta’s Youth Struggles to Enter the Workforce as COVID-19 Blocks the Path to their Future

Published by Emma Kenfield on

Atlanta’s Youth Struggles to Enter the Workforce as COVID-19 Blocks the Path to their Future

Editor’s Note: This story is part of our COVID-19 (the ‘rona) series. Click to learn more about our local ‘rona coverage.

Life after COVID-19 looks blurry. The pandemic has tossed much of the future up in the air, leaving us anxious and unsettled. Perhaps some of the most uprooted are college students and graduates stepping into the job field for the first time.

Internships are being canceled. Companies are delaying start dates. At best, interns and new hires will work remotely, learning the ins-and-outs of the real world, though never leaving home. 

These are the most formative years for a young professional, and it seems, for many, they won’t even begin.

Tawil Charaniya, a rising senior at the University of Georgia (UGA), was supposed to begin a 12-week internship program with Georgia Pacific (GP), practicing data science and data analytics for their IT department. Unfortunately, on April 20, he received a call informing him that the program was cancelled. 

“I felt defeated,” he said. “I worked so hard in the fall, going through tons of interviews with a lot of firms. I was so excited when I got an offer for them.”

Charaniya said the anxiety from the situation still haunts him. This experience was intended to provide him with valuable credentials and knowledge, and he fears he won’t be a strong enough candidate for recruiting season next year when he searches for a more permanent position. 

“I just wish GP had at least given me a partial, remote internship,” he said. 

Courtesy of Tawil Charaniya

Juan Concha, another rising senior at UGA, had a similar experience with Starr Insurance.

Courtesy of Juan Concha

The HR department called him on April 24, informing him that his underwriter internship position was being canceled. The company offered an unpaid, virtual program, but that doesn’t merit the same experience or credentials. 

“It made me feel pretty disappointed because I was looking forward to using the skills I had been learning in the classroom and applying them to real-world experiences,” he said.

Concha is still trying to pursue other positions, and feels confident he will find a substitute before June 1. Charaniya is not so sure, however, fearing the widespread hiring changes will leave him jobless.

“I’ve reached out to some people in my network to see if anybody has any internships or contract work available, but that isn’t looking promising as most firms are currently in a hiring freeze,” he said. 

Luckily, things aren’t so hopeless for all young professionals. Morgan Manning, who graduated a year early from Georgia State University, was hired as a teacher through an organization called Teach for America (TFA) prior to the pandemic. Her position still remains but will be done virtually. 

“I was supposed to have training for Teach for America in person for four weeks, but instead we’re doing virtual Zoom calls for TFA training,” she said. 

Courtesy of Morgan Manning, via Facebook

Manning was also supposed to teach a summer class for Atlanta Public Schools, but those will most likely be taught virtually as well. She is hopeful that by the fall the pandemic will have subsided, and she will see a classroom from a teacher’s perspective for the first time. 

Although virtual training won’t provide her with the same level of experience and exposure, Manning said that the changes have actually benefited her in some ways. 

“It’s given me a little bit more time to look for a new apartment, move and adjust to life post-graduation,” she said.

Some are better off than others during this time of dramatic change. If there is one aspect these three can agree on, it’s the uncertainty of what’s to come for future graduating classes. 

Charaniya worries that companies will take a long time to bounce back from the economic backlash of COVID-19, leaving little need for new hires. 

“It’s going to cause recruiting to slow down a lot,” he said. “This worries me for the next couple years of graduating classes. There simply just won’t be enough jobs available.”

Charaniya is seriously considering staying in school to pursue a Master’s degree, simply to avoid entering such a struggling job market. 

Concha worries about a worsening recession, as the graduating classes of the next five years are going to feel the effects of COVID-19. He speculates that a heavy resistance to spending after the pandemic will hurt the market greatly. 

Manning noted that essential positions, such as her own, will continue to exist despite the outlooks of a dire economy. She said that for those who are entering nonessential industries, positions will be scarce for the next few years. 

At the end of the day, the future is scary for all of us. There can be a case made for all age groups as the pandemic will surely affect us all individually. For those who’ve barely put their foot in the door, however, things have never felt so uncertain. 

Let’s hope that nonessential businesses continue to keep America’s youth in mind for the years to come, no matter the conditions of the future economy. Our lives will be much brighter that way.

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Emma Kenfield

Emma Kenfield is an eager young writer with a taste for the unusual and a passion for the truth. She is currently a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying media and journalism. She reads and writes poetry in her free time, collects Elvis Presley memorabilia and describes her aesthetic as “grandma-chic.” After working as a reporter for a few years, Kenfield wants to become a lawyer, practicing media and First Amendment law.

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