Job market for new graduates looks up

Campuses’ career counsellors have been seeing encouraging signs, and now a major survey of employers backs them up: The coming year looks to be a much better one for new graduates seeking jobs.

[This is an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, America’s leading higher education publication. It is presented here under an agreement with University World News.]

Job openings for those graduates are projected to grow by double digits in 2014-15, following several years of smaller increases, according to key findings from a survey by Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute.

Hiring of new bachelor-degree recipients will increase by 16%, the survey projects, while hiring among all degree levels will grow at the same rate according to responses from nearly 5,700 employers.

"This demand has been pent up for over a decade now," said Philip D Gardner, director of the institute. “The economy is improving, employers are looking ahead, and retirements are starting to trickle out. “In addition, some of these companies are simply growing."

The big question now, Gardner said, was whether the job market would sustain that rate of growth in the coming years.

More than just hot fields

On campuses, career-development officials also say job prospects look good. All signs point to a strong hiring cycle this year for new graduates at the University of Connecticut.

More employers are visiting the campus, the university’s interview rooms are oversubscribed, job postings are up 15 percent, and "students are being much more optimistic", said Jim Lowe, assistant vice provost and executive director of the centre for career development.

Large employers are cultivating relationships with underclassmen, Lowe added, something that just wasn’t happening when the job market was weaker.

And while majors like digital media and computer science are hot among employers, they are also "reaching into the liberal arts and sciences like they haven’t done in a while", Lowe said. If students are talented and have gained practical experience – through an internship say – many employers are flexible about what they studied, he said.

David Gaston has noticed the same thing at the University of Kansas where he oversees the career centre. Students in its college of liberal arts and sciences have struggled to find entry-level jobs in the last few years, said Gaston, an assistant vice provost, but that is changing.

Job market growth might not make it quite into the double digits in Kansas, he said, but things were looking good. One positive indicator was that more students were visiting the career centre.

“It’s counter-intuitive,” he said, “But students are more likely to seek help when they feel better about the hiring outlook.”

Students are wise to take advantage of career guidance, Gardner said. While the market was improving, he said that did not mean “they’re just looking for warm bodies, and anybody with a degree or certificate". Jobs were available, but they would go to those who were well prepared.

This year, the Michigan State centre released key findings from the survey ahead of its full report, which will be out in November.