Belize's level of human development has been increasing steadily over the years, but a rise in educated citizens does not seem to be proportional to the level of opportunity in the country. As a result, many fresh graduates find themselves face to face with an unexpected challenge: underemployment. But what is underemployment? It refers to people with training who can't find a job in their field and have to settle for something else, usually for a lot less money. Our college intern Robin Schaffer sat down with three young graduates who have been unable to find jobs in their area of study. Here's her report:

Robin Schaffer reporting
Belize has an unemployment rate of 11.1%, but what about underemployment, or particularly, highly skilled Belizeans who can only find low paying and/or low skill jobs? There is no statistic for that, but it is a growing concern in Belize as many young graduates enter the work force with limited options. Inability to find work in chosen field is a matter of anxious worry. Will I be able to use my skills in Belize? Will I have to move or will I have to settle? Well we spoke to three young Belizeans who fall into this category, and while their views range from highly optimistic to a bit pessimistic, they all have had to take a hard dose of reality after years of not finding jobs that meet their skill sets.

Jamie Rocke received her degree in law and political science in 2008, and returned to Belize with a measure of idealism, but in the 6 years since, she has still not found a job relating to her field of choice: social advocacy.

Jamie Rocke - administrative officer
"I left University in 2008 with this idea that I would be this big social advocate in policy and I would just get a job where I could reach out to people and affect change and that didn't really happen."

"Well it was very frustrating. My mom will tell you that there were many days that I just wanted to leave my job as a teacher and just quit and give up and it was very difficult. I wanted to go back to Barbados, I wanted to leave. I did not like my country I did not like the fact that there are many others like me who did not have opportunities. It is a very dark place."

So how does one rise up from that darkness; the profound disappointment from repeated rejections?

Jamie Rocke - administrative officer
"When you are looking for a career, always pursue something that you are passionate about. It might take a while, but if you are passionate about it, you are not going to give up on it, and you will eventually find your career path."

"At the end of the day, Belize is where I'm from, and we can't have everyone rushing and running away outside to different countries trying to seek opportunities outside because if we have the "brain drain" as some people call it. There will not be anyone left here to develop what we have."

"I still needed to come back home and contribute in whatever way I could."

But what happens when following your passion leads you to a dead end?

Ana Suazo was faced with the very real fact that when it comes to something specialized like graphic design, it is difficult to find a job in any field no matter how many résumés you send out:

Ana Suazo- student
"I sent out quite a few. I can't really give a count of how many, but some of them came back saying 'well we found someone else with more experience', or like that. Right? And then the others came out that they already have someone in the field but they will keep me in contact if something ever comes up."

"And trying to find a job as like a secretary or as a front desk reservation clerk, they usually came up that I didn't have the background in the field, or I didn't have the experience in the field, which I didn't study any business. I don't have any business background so they didn't find me qualified for that"

Design is her passion, but following her passion did not quite turn out like she'd hoped, so two years later she is switching to business:

Ana Suazo - student
"I did arts because it was something I was passionate about. I really loved arts; I really loved designing, but then after a while I realized I can't mix my hobbies with my actual job."

"They'd be like study what you want, do a career that you love. That's what I did but now I'm like 'no, I should have just studied something I could have found a job in to keep me going in life.'"

Disillusioned and ready to move on, Ana has some very sobering advice for prospective art majors.

Ana Suazo - student
"I'll say that if they want to do arts I wouldn't suggest to do it in Belize. Belize isn't really a place where you find somewhere that wants art people."

Well, luckily for Ilona Smiling, following her passion for landed her a job as a museum curator - but only after trying, and failing, to apply her criminology degree in Belize.

Ilona Smiling - Art Curator
"So I gave up something that I really wanted to do - my passion, my love - to go and do something that would benefit my country."

In 2009 she returned to Belize equipped with specialization in forensics and criminal psychology, which her parents forced her to do:

Ilona Smiling - Art Curator
"I like criminology, but it is not my passion, and I remember crying almost every week to my parents saying 'I don't want to do criminology! I don't love it! I don't love it!' and they kept saying, 'you know what Ilona? Just stick to it; Belize really needs it, so I did it and came back and nothing."

But when she sent out applications, no one wanted to hire her.

Ilona Smiling - Art Curator
"I sent out 6 applications, and I received back two. One of them had my name misspelt, one of them said my name was Mr. Ilona Smiling, and all of them said that they have no current positions available."

"One of them was for an ad that advertised for police cadet, I said fine I'll do it, but I never got anything back."

After two years of searching and mounting student loans, she gave up because, according to her, the opportunity was just not there.

Ilona Smiling - Curator
"Two years it took me to realize, you know what, I gave up art to do something for my country and it was like a big slap in the face."

"I felt that I wasn't being used, you know? So I thought you know what? Screw this. I'm going back to do exactly what I wanted to do and what I loved."

So at the end of it all, Belize has gained a passionate curator at the loss of a skilled criminologist. Her advice? Do something you love:

Ilona Smiling - Art Curator
"Make sure you have another plan besides coming back here and just wanting to work. It sounds mean , I guess, or it sounds like I don't have faith in my country, but you know it's just, it is extremely hard knowing that people come back with degrees and they can't get a job."

"Do something that you love, don't do something that will benefit Belize."

According to the most recent labor force survey, underemployment is at 15%, but it refers to people who are working part time and would like to work full time, but cannot find that kind of job.

Channel 7