By MICHAEL O’NEAL
As graduation rapidly approaches for the University of Mary Washington’s class of 2015, the goal of finding a job looms ever more threateningly above the heads of students. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as recent studies show the odds of finding an occupation should increase for 2015 graduates.
Phil Gardner, director of Michigan State University’s College Employment Research Institute, provided insight to USA Today on this positive trend.
“Companies have continued their growth while minimizing the addition of staff, and they’ve just run out of staff,” said Gardner. “Very large companies haven’t hired consistently over the last 15 years, and now they have holes and huge turnover behind this economy.”
In addition to this, developments in recent years contributed to job growth in technology related fields.
The exact level of hiring varies from study to study, but most point to an increase. Michigan State University’s study was fairly optimistic, predicting a 16 percent increase in hires for recent college graduates. Another study by the National Association for Colleges and Employers had slightly lower expectations, stating that growth would likely be between eight and ten percent.
Heather Kennedy, a senior historic preservation major, said she likes the prospects but is anxious to get results.
“It’s encouraging to hear that my chances are higher, but I won’t really relax until I find a job,” said Kennedy.
Even during an economic recession, UMW graduates have performed well in the job market. A 2011 UMW alumni survey showed that among respondents who graduated between 2007 and 2011, 70 percent indicated they were employed full time, while 11.5 percent indicated they were full-time students. Only 3.1 percent identified as “unemployed, searching.”
These studies suggest that employment after graduation, while intimidating, is attainable for the class of 2015.
An alternate pathway, graduate school, is also a promising avenue for many UMW graduates. The 2011 alumni survey revealed that among respondents who graduated prior to 2007, more than 46 percent completed a graduate degree. Among respondents who graduated between 2007 and 2011, more than 43 percent indicated that they were presently enrolled in graduate school at least part-time.
Both MSU and NACE credit a change in the economy as the driving force for the increased hiring rates, specifically noting the large and aging “Baby Boomer” population who are rapidly retiring.
“Boomers have been working longer, but now a large portion of them are starting to retire,” said Gardner. “When they get to the retirement age, it will have a bigger impact on organizations that are really tied to those that really can’t capture global labor.”
Andrea Koncz, a research manager at NACE, said in an interview with USA Today that employers are looking to hire more staff, but they expect staff to have prior experience, such as internships, and other hirable qualities.
“Employers are typically looking for people with good teamwork and leadership skills,” said Koncz. “They like to see students have relevant work experience, which they could get through an internship as well.”
For graduates struggling to find a job, internships, coupled with a part-time job, can provide an avenue for future full-time employment. Senior sociology major Ryan Lacey said he is willing to try different options.
“Honestly I’ll be grateful to find any job,” said Lacey. “I don’t have the luxury of being picky.”
UMW does offer assistance for students on the job hunt. Academic and Career Services provides counseling, resume-building workshops and “Employ-an-Eagle,” a job and internship posting website designed specifically for UMW students.
Experts believe these increased opportunities will continue to be available to future college graduates as well, an encouraging fact for the non-graduating UMW student body.
“I think the rates will stay the same,” said Koncz. “It may keep increasing a bit over the years, but it’s always been important to hire recent college graduates.”