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Job Prospects Might Be On Rise for New College Graduates

April 16, 2012

Carol Biliczky


Job prospects appear to be improving for college students who will graduate this spring.

More recruiters are visiting campuses, and studies say they'll be hiring more students than they did last year.

"It's looking better than it has over the last several years," said Kim Beyer, career services director at the University of Akron.

Employers have conducted 564 interviews on the UA campus so far this year, with weeks yet to go, compared to 491 for all of last year.

An annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers forecasts a 10.2 percent rise in job offers to college graduates this spring.

That's over the initial projection of 9.5 percent and the second consecutive year in which employers have adjusted their hiring expectations upward.

At Hiram College, that improved outlook already has translated into more job offers for new graduates, said Kathryn Craig, career services director.

About a half-dozen companies have touched base at Hiram, a small campus in Portage County. That's huge, considering that no employers were calling three years ago.

At Kent State, the 110 employers showing up at the spring job fair was a "phenomenal number, considering that a few years ago it was in the 80s," career counselor Ryan McNaughton said.

At the University of Akron, the number of employers attending career fairs has risen from 201 at the bottom of the recession in 2008-2009 to 276 so far this year -- a 37 percent increase.

For students who started college when the economy tanked, the improved prospect is a relief.

"I feel very lucky to have gotten a job," said Kyle Peters, an economics major from Cortland who will walk out of Hiram College into a job as an industry analyst at the Freedonia Group in suburban Cleveland.

Natalie Sheerer of Hudson has locked up a job doing inside sales and marketing for Summit Data Communications in Akron. She is an international business major at UA who plans to go to law school.

She said she considers herself one of the lucky ones. Many of her classmates are in "crunch time" as they face graduation with no paycheck in sight.

"Even with this improved job outlook, the competition will be fierce," Michigan State's College Employment Research Institute warned. "Employer demand falls short of the supply of graduating students."

More students appear to be chasing the jobs that exist. The number of applications per job posting rose from 21 last year to 33 this year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

And 70 percent of employers are not going to increase their starting salaries, according to Michigan State's institute.

Prospects tied to majors

Engineering, accounting and computer science students are among those best situated to get offers, area career service officials say.

"Anything out of the professional schools, where there's not a direct, clear career path, they struggle," said Joe Protopapa, the UA associate director of career services.

Students in the liberal arts have to put in extra legwork to figure out where their skills fit, he added.

"Education majors are having a tough time of it," KSU's McNaughton said. "We're spitting out more, but there are fewer and fewer jobs."

Salina Dubose of Maple Heights is one of those seeking a job in education. The master's degree student in counseling at Kent State knew finding a job would be tough, especially as she wants to stay in Ohio. She has a backup plan -- retail -- if her hunt drags out.

For many other students, the backup plan is graduate school.

At Hiram College, about half of this year's 300 graduates are going to graduate school or will teach English overseas for a nonprofit, Craig said. At the College of Wooster, more than 20 percent are headed to graduate school.

But what's happening is still in flux, as there are still weeks to go until the semester ends and many students are on the edge waiting for job offers that might -- or might not -- come in.

Kara Kozlowski of Tallmadge hopes her internship in the tire and automotive industry will turn into a full-time job. But the UA marketing major worries her employer might prefer to hire interns instead of a full-timer.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," she said. "This is a tough economy."

Source: (c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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