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Graduate’s struggle to get on career ladder

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Bright spark: Janeigh Burgess, 25, works part-time at Bermuda Environmental Laborotories Ltd but has had no luck finding a full-time career despite having an honours degree (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Janeigh Burgess came home with a degree and high hopes three years ago. She hasn’t yet found a full-time job.

The 25-year-old studied forensic science and investigative analysis at Kingston University in the UK. She thought the honours degree would be enough to get her at least an entry-level position.

“I knew that there were jobs in the field that were being filled by foreigners, so I thought I could come back and at least get a foot in the door and build my way up,” she said.

“I didn’t expect to just come home and start making money. I know it doesn’t work like that. I hadn’t had a job yet, I was fresh out of school, I just thought someone could guide me a little bit.”

Now pregnant, she is working part-time jobs at Bermuda Environmental Laboratories Ltd and The Fairmont Southampton — and is still knocking on doors.

Her resume got no response from the Bermuda Government’s forensics department; a promised tour of the facility was never followed through. She applied to join the Bermuda Police Service as a cadet and “wasn’t even considered”.

“Not even interviewed, despite my qualifications,” Ms Burgess said. “I also applied for jobs that came up online: court clerk, laboratory technicians. At that point I didn’t even have the [lab job I have now] so my lack of experience brought more ‘noes’.

“I was hoping that if I got in with Government, got my foot in the door, then I could branch off into forensics. Once people know you and you can show them what you can do — your determination and who you are — it’s easier for you to get a little further.

“[My focus of study] was broad, it wasn’t just forensics. I did chemistry, crime scenes, psychology, research ... I did it because it was something that’s not mundane and routine. It’s exciting.

“It was also a lot of hard work. But I was very focused. Because I was paying out of pocket — my mother’s pocket and some money that I saved — I couldn’t afford to waste time.”

With a child on the way, Ms Burgess is especially concerned about her future.

“I need to get my career going now,” she said. “I don’t have stability. If I had a full-time job, I’d feel a lot more comfortable.”

Her partner had similar troubles finding work and is also working two jobs to support himself.

“I know it’s not just me,” Ms Burgess said. “Employment is so bad in Bermuda. It sucks. At this age, I expected to be a lot further than this.

“I know I’m still young but it could be a lot better. I want to be able to get a house, help my mama pay her mortgage. Maybe go on vacation. That seems so far away.

“I feel discouraged. I like this job, but I don’t want to settle. I went to school for four years and I put a lot of hard work into that.”

She said it was disappointing, especially as she had been proactive, e-mailing companies on the island before she graduated in the hope of setting something up for her return.

Her hope now is to save enough money that she can return to university for “more qualifications and some experience”.

“I do want to be here,” she said. “Unfortunately [overseas is] where all the opportunities are. I wanted to do forensics because it helps people when you can reach a conclusion, give answers, or provide closure.

“The things I learnt away at school show there are so many solutions, but we clearly don’t have the equipment here.

“When they bring people in from overseas they spend a fortune on that, plus sending away the evidence and getting it processed. I feel like they could save a lot of that if they gave Bermudians a chance to work, to get some experience.

“There’s no excuse for not hiring Bermudians. You should help your island and help people get further. I’ve done everything that I can think of. I’ve spoken to people and taken their suggestions. If there’s anything else I can think of I would do it.”

She said she had learnt a lot from the disappointing experience.

“Sometimes you have to be pushy because it shows that you’re serious, but some people just don’t answer,” she said.

“I know if I ever get where I want to be I will definitely help somebody. Especially knowing how hard it is.”

Local talent: Janeigh Burgess says she knew that there were jobs in her field being filled by foreigners when she was studying forensics in the UK (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)