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Job market shapes up for college graduates

Wed., May 18, 2011

Search has challenges but is getting easier

MIAMI – University of Miami senior Hillary Weiss has spent the past four months sending out resumes, sitting down for interviews, and doing her best to get that sometimes-elusive first job after graduation. The public-relations major says it’s all paid off – even before getting her degree on Friday, Weiss had already secured a position at KWE Partners, a local PR firm.

An unpaid internship position, that is.

Weiss, along with other recent grads and college career-service counselors, say the entry-level job market is showing signs of improvement – hiring opportunities are the best since 2008 – but today’s graduates still face a tougher job search than in those heady pre-recession days.

Weiss, who already had past internship experience under her belt, is taking it all in stride, and says she’s “overjoyed” that her new two-month internship includes the possibility of leading to a full-time, wage-earning job.

“I know with hard work, I can’t mess it up,” Weiss said.

In recent weeks, the National Association of Colleges and Employers released its latest employer survey results, with U.S. employers planning to hire 19.3 percent more graduates in 2010-2011 than they did in 2009-2010. The results marked the first double-digit increase in spring hiring projections since 2007.

“We’re a lot better off than where we were,” said Fayona Salmon of Nova Southeastern University’s Office of Career Development. Yet, she cautioned the job market “still isn’t where it needs to be.”

Internships like the one accepted by Weiss have become more common, Salmon said. It’s a way for employers to test-drive young talent without adding to the company payroll.

Another way employers have cut corners in recruiting: online job postings are in, while campus visits are less emphasized. UM’s online job posting database boasts more than double the jobs listed at this time last year, but on-campus career fairs are still drawing about the same – roughly 100 companies.

Before the recession, those career fairs would typically lure 210 or 215 interested firms.

“They’re still interested in our students, they’re still hiring,” said Christian Garcia, director of UM’s Toppel Career Center. “But they typically can’t come on campus.”

The job market, for college grads or anyone else, is really a collection of smaller sub-markets based on specific majors and professions. The type of job grads are looking for, and not the state of the economy, can often be the deciding factor in how difficult the search will be.

Throughout the recession, health-related careers have outperformed the economy as a whole, and fields such as nursing continue to offer grads plenty of employers to choose from.

Community college graduates typically earn a transfer-oriented associate of arts degree, or a two or four-year degree tailored to specific high-demand careers such as nursing or computer networking services technology.

Because of their practical focus, Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron said his school’s job-ready programs have a placement rate well above 90 percent.

“If we were offering bachelor’s degrees in anthropology or sociology or political science or fields like that, it’s much more difficult to find jobs,” Padron said.

At Florida International University, engineering majors are finding a wealth of job opportunities.

FIU’s career services office spoke of one engineering student who also has a passion for scuba diving. Though still two classes away from graduation, he’s already secured something of a dream job: an engineering position with a Florida company that will include underwater bridge inspections.


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