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Thursday March 8, 2001

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Dot-com job hopes dwindling for UA students

By Ayse Guner

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Economic slowdown hits home as some companies cancel campus searches

More UA students are opening their mailboxes lately to find letters with the discouraging sentence, "We regret to inform you that we have filled our positions."

The nationwide economic slowdown - which showed its presence in Tucson last month when the technology firm Running Start, Inc. laid off all 64 of its employees - has also been appearing in the rejections that some students are receiving from management companies.

Many University of Arizona students who are trying to enter computer-related professions said they have been rejected from some of the companies they applied to, mainly because of this slowdown.

As a result, students say they are bitter, but they are not giving up.

Jeff Paro, a finance and entrepreneurship senior, applied to American Management Systems, an information technology consulting firm, last semester with hopes of entering the high-tech industry as soon as he graduates. But since he received his rejection letter last week, he had to keep applying to other firms, he said.

"They said my skills didn't match with the available jobs," Paro said. "But it was because of the slowdown."

Paro, who is vice president of the Entrepreneurship Association, a student-run organization, said he has a strong resumÄ that should have allowed him to get the job at American Management Systems. However, the economic shift has been effecting that, he said.

"The opportunities that were available even last semester are no longer available," he said. "In the last semesters, they would hire pretty much any major and train them because of the demand."

Some of the large companies that hold campus recruiting events every semester also canceled their visits this semester, said members of the Management Information Systems Association, another student-run organization.

"We had companies cancel on us at the last minute, which is something that didn't happen before," said Ryan McConnell, an MIS sophomore.

Last week, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting firm, canceled its presentation to the club. The firm, which hired 10 UA students last year, has eliminated 400 management consulting jobs within the last month, according to Vault.com, an online career search engine for management services.

Amanda Vogel, campus recruiter at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles, said the company was full from previous recruiting and stopped visiting all campuses this semester.

Vogel said that PricewaterhouseCoopers did go through some downsizing because workers' skills did not match with the company's structure, but she declined to discuss the number of laid-off employees in the organization, citing confidentiality reasons.

Another company that canceled a campus internship session was Cap Gemini Ernst and Young.

Jennifer Van Iersel, university recruiter from the El Segundo, Calif. offices of Cap Gemini Ernst and Young, also said the company had filled its internship positions, adding that the hiring status has nothing to do with the sluggish economy.

Chris Stahle, an MIS and operations management senior and the club's president, said he applied for about 30 jobs within the last semester and has received five rejections - which he said he thinks is a direct result of the downfall.

"Although I was successful in first round interviews, they were not looking for to hire full-time internships for the spring," Stahle said.

Brannon Lacey, an MIS and entrepreneurship senior, said he worked for a local Internet service provider last semester called I360 Inc., which went out of business after it merged with InfoCast, a Toronto-based developer of call-center equipment.

The "dot-com" companies are unreliable especially for students to start-up their careers, he said.

"When the companies laid-off, people were left standing with a bag," Lacey said. "I think big blue chip companies are looked upon a lot more now, whereas (before) a lot of kids would hope to jump in Internet start-ups."

Over the past three months, the jobs cut at U.S. dot-com companies have surged to 50,000, according to the New York Times.

The Times also reported that in January, 12, 828 jobs were eliminated, which was a 23 percent increase compared to December 2000.

This did not surprise some MIS professors, though.

"I think it was inevitable," said David Meader, director of MIS Undergraduate Studies, about the failure of dot-com companies.

Internet start-ups, which were once lucrative and have now laid off thousands, had poor business models to begin with, Meader said.

"There weren't that many good reasons for people to buy the kind of products that were being proposed by these dot-coms," he said.

The Internet still cannot provide what people want in terms of speed, safety, convenience and customization, he said. When students ask for advice, Meader said, he would discourage them from going into dot-com businesses because of the associated risks.

"Dot-coms are dangerous, but there is a lot in the world that is not dot-com," he said.

Meader said he could not comment on the local companies that went out of business, "but (it) sounds like the company most likely did what other dot-coms did," he said.

"They said, 'We are great, we are great,' and tomorrow they closed up the doors and shut everybody up," he added.

Because companies are going through a tough period within the current economical cycle - which is expected to improve in the long-run - managers act cautiously in their payroll expenses, said Mark Zupan, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration.

Students will see a lot of changes before they graduate and should focus more on the future, Zupan said.

However, the shift causes students to become more aware of the trade-offs in dot-com related companies, he added.

"Dot-coms are becoming dot-gones because they were here yesterday and gone today," he said.

Students said their hopes for entering the information systems' sector are not completely diminished, though, because of an increasing demand for more computer use.

Most students target for Big-Five consulting companies like Arthur Andersen, or companies that build technology products like Microsoft.

"My attitude is that if you are one of the best students, you'll always have a job," Paro said.


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