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The job market offers good news for the class of 1998; an industry by industry analysis reveals a high demand for graduates across the board, especially those with technical and computer skills.


The condition of the job market is a reality that must be faced by most new college graduates. Will jobs be available? Where are they? What skills and capabilities are employers seeking? These and other concerns weigh heavily on the minds of new graduates.

The annual Recruiting, Trends Survey of 477 businesses, industries, and governmental agencies highlights the issues, concerns, and perspectives of employers nationwide. This report, conducted by Michigan State University, provides up-to-date information for new graduates on what they can expect upon entering the job market. Employers were asked to comment on their hiring goals and recommended preparation to ensure that new graduates experience a successful transfer from school to work.

According to Michigan State University's Recruiting Trends Survey, there is good news concerning the job market for job seekers with college degrees. Another increase in hiring of new college graduates is expected by surveyed employers this year. Approximately 27.5% more new college graduates will be required to fill the positions available in the surveyed organizations. Job growth for new college graduates has now been positive for five consecutive years. The following chart shows the continual growth, which means more job opportunities for new graduates.

An expanding job market for new college graduates affords greater opportunities for acquiring entry-level assignments with college degrees. Therefore, more new college graduates should not be surprised by the job offers they receive this year. In the past, job offers were not bad, but they should be better this year.

Preparation remains a key to success for new college graduates in this year's job market. Surveyed employers commented that new graduates equipped with academic training demanded by the marketplace and real-world work experiences should be competitive.

Factors Affecting Job Opportunities This Year

How exactly does the job market affect a new graduate? Employers will explain that there are certain factors that will affect the number of job opportunities in a given year. Hiring goals of employers offering jobs to new college graduates this year (1997-98) will be influenced by several factors, according to employers. Current economic conditions and general business expansion were responses common to several employers.

Continuing growth of the economy: The economic boom of the late 1990s has been characterized by steady financial growth and low inflation rates. These factors have supported excellent job opportunities for new college graduates. The current bright economic prospects are expected to continue.

However, a small number of employers warned against too much optimism. They caution that the economy may not remain stable.

Unemployment rate: Of the respondents three cited unemployment as a factor affecting job opportunities. During the last year from October 1996 to October 1997, the unemployment rate in the United States declined to 4.7 percent, as reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.[1] The unemployment rate in October was 0.7 percent below a year earlier. From April through September, the rate ranged from 4.8 to 5.0 percent. It makes sense that the lower the unemployment rate, the greater the chance is for new college graduates to obtain jobs. However, not all new graduates may get positions that require a college degree.

Total employment: In October 1997, total employment in the United States was 129.9 million.[2] During the past year, total employment increased by 2.0 million people. New college graduates acquired some of these new positions. In addition, growth in total employment created a greater probability of new graduates obtaining jobs requiring college degrees. Six employers mentioned increased job growth as a factor that is positively influencing employment prospects for new graduates.

Demand for technical graduates: Demand for technically-trained new college graduates remains very high, particularly for new graduates with computer skills. According to 11 employers, "it is a seller's market" for technical graduates. There is especially intense competition for talented new technical graduates. In addition, job opportunities for graduates in high-tech fields are experiencing sustained growth. The result: demand is outpacing supply for technical graduates.

New technical graduates requested most frequently by several employers are academic majors in computer and information sciences; engineering; business management and administrative services; and the health professions and related sciences.

Year 2000: Employers are searching for information systems staffs who can help them fix year-2000 problems.[3] The focus has been on Cobol, C and C++ source code. There are terrible predictions of complete shutdowns of businesses and government agencies on January 1, 2000. Since computers were invented, programmers have designated only two digits for the year in a date. In many cases, these programs will not work correctly with dates after December 31, 1999. The challenge for programmers and employers, who have begun recruiting many new staff for this project, is to find and redefine programming variables to accommodate four-digit dates and modify logic to properly calculate dates after January 1, 2000.

New technologies: Computers, robotics, and other advanced technologies are playing an important role in the growth of productivity and prosperity experienced by organizations through the U.S. New graduates prepared for these assignments will reap the benefits. Other new technologies mentioned by several surveyed employers included high-tech manufacturing, software and computer-related services, communication services, wholesale and retail trade of high technology goods, and biotechnology.

New business growth: Increased business growth is leading to additional employment opportunities for new college graduates in numerous surveyed organizations. Signs of business growth include increased volumes of new work, new products, recent acquisitions, reduced competition, and growing profits. Other instances of growth are expansion of business opportunities, backlogs in production facilities, new contracts, increased sales, rising retail sales, gains in target markets, and new products released.

Bachelor's graduates decreasing: Employers were indicating that there were not enough graduates applying for their job openings. An analysis of the data on anticipated new graduates suggests that this may be true. Fewer new bachelor's degree graduates may available to employers.

For the first time in many years, the number of new bachelor's degree graduates will decline. In 1996-97, it is estimated that colleges and universities throughout the United States granted approximately 1, 183,000 bachelor's degrees.[4] In 1997-98, 1,169,000 bachelor's graduates are expected to receive degrees. This anticipated decrease of 1.2% in bachelor's degree recipients would inevitably have an influence on the job market for new college graduates, Fewer new bachelor's degree graduates will yield more job openings for each new graduate.

This decline in new bachelor's graduates is expected to continue through 1999-2000, when 1,138,000 new bachelor's recipients are anticipated.

Master's degree graduates are expected to increase in 1997-98 to approximately 414,000. This is an increase of 1.0% from approximately 410,000 new master's degree recipients in 1996-97.

For doctoral degree graduates, an increase of 0.7% is expected in 1997-98. Approximately 44,500 new doctoral degree graduates are expected. In 199697, approximately 44,200 doctoral degrees were granted.

Multicultural workforce: Personnel employed by most organizations in the future will become much more multicultural and more gender equal, according to survey respondents. The results will be increased pressure on colleges and universities to prepare new graduates representing all ethnic groups and each gender. Likewise, according to two respondents, recruiters visiting college campuses will be seeking multicultural representation and gender equity among the new college graduates hired by their organizations.

Global investments: The era of growth in global business investments is continuing, as many additional corporations in the U.S. are becoming multinational. This is creating more work for more employees on the payrolls of several U.S. corporations. The challenge for new graduates is accurately determining which organizations and markets are adapting best and fastest to this new situation.

Competencies and Skills in Highest Demand

After reviewing the recruitment efforts of their organizations on college and university campuses last year (199697), 67 surveyed employers summarized the job competencies and skill areas that were hardest to find. Most significant among the abilities and talents listed by employers were engineering, computer-related occupations, and a few business and management assignments.

The engineering majors mentioned most frequently by surveyed employers were: computer engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, electrical engineering, radio frequency engineering, hydraulic engineering, software engineering, welding engineering, geoscience engineering, petroleum engineering, analog design for electrical engineering, project engineers, and structural engineering.

The computer-related occupations were computer programmers, systems analysts, information technology, majors, visual basic computer programming language, management information systems majors, computer science, UNIX programmers, C++ programmers, COBOL programmers, computer aided design (CAD), and networking managers.

The business and management majors mentioned by employers were accounting, sales and marketing, materials science majors, MBAs with experience in manufacturing or human resources, and insurance majors.

The academic skill areas and job performance competencies cited by employers were writing skills, speaking and presentation skills, telephone communication skills, supervisory and management skills, and warehouse management skills. Areas of personal focus noted by employers were the desire for a long-term commitment, a strong work ethic, risk takers, solid self-motivation, and new graduates with common sense.

Importance of Overseas Educational Experiences

The importance of overseas educational experiences for college students was accentuated most notably by surveyed organizations with global commitments in worldwide locations. Of the 147 employers responding, 0.5% reported that overseas educational experiences had "extremely high" importance in their organizations when college students were recruited for full-time positions. Generally speaking, according to employers rating overseas educational experiences as very high, these experiences make people more flexible, cooperative, and easier to work with in culturally diverse work environments.

With more organizations expanding into worldwide locations, college graduates can expect increased emphasis on overseas educational experiences by employers. Most notable among recruiters with global placement opportunities was an increase in demand for second language skills, especially French, Spanish, and Chinese.

In some organizations, overseas educational experiences can be a deciding factor in the selection process, if all other job competencies are satisfied.

Key Factors Considered in Hiring

When surveyed organizations were conducting interviews with new college graduates on college campuses, certain key factors were considered as very important during the evaluation process. The most significant elements of a successful interview were:

Real-world work experiences: For new college graduates who want to land the top career opportunities available with prospective employers alter graduation, it is very important that they obtain pre-professional work experiences, relevant cooperative education assignments, entrepreneurships, internships and /or volunteer positions that test their potential. Employers are very, interested in college students, who have thoroughly investigated their career alternatives, and spent significant time on tasks with their preferred career interests.

Technical Skills: A breadth of technical competence was high on the list of factors examined by employers. Another dimension of this factor was knowledge of the automated technologies profession and technical wisdom. New graduates who have the ability to relate their educational and internship experiences to the employers' world are highly desired. In addition, an ability to manage different technical tasks was essential.

Grade Point Averages: One measure of academic abilities possessed by graduating students is the grade point average attained. Employers want high grade point averages or growth during a student's college career. Without other quantities to consider, employers are limited to use of grade point averages as standards for success during college and potential for achievement on the job.

Academic Preparation: Especially meaningful to employers is the academic training received by college students. Degrees obtained in academic fields related to the employer's job openings are important. Another key matter is the graduate's raw knowledge.

Leadership Qualities: The leadership roles held by college students with extra-curricular clubs and campus activities are clues to job performance potential for employers. New graduates who have been in leadership positions and can list their successful accomplishments are more appealing to employers. Experiences with student publications are favored.

Percent of college expenses paid: Graduating students who have worked their way through college are winners, as far as employers are concerned. From the employer's perspective, this factor is a demonstration of the graduate work ethic and self-motivation.

Personal Presentation: The way new graduates reveal themselves to employers during the interview is important. Personality, maturity, professionalism, personal impact and hygiene were other examples of personal factors cited by employers.

Attitude: The confidence and positive attitude displayed by the new graduates are significant too. Employers report these factors as self-confidence, poise, and self-esteem.

Communication Skills: The applicant's ability to converse during the interview is critical. Also important for successful job performance in most organizations are the abilities to communicate effectively with others, to perform satisfactorily as a public speaker, to write well, to listen attentively, and to positively influence others toward achievement of group goals.

Computer Skills: Technical abilities are investigated by employers throughout the pre-employment process. During the interviewing phase of recruitment, employers frequently ask questions related to the graduate's prior experiences with computers, email, software, and hardware applications.

Problem Analysis and Analytical Thinking: Another measure used by employers is a graduate's initiative. Employers want a proven skill, so graduates need to cite examples. Critical thinking is also measured with problem-solving situations as an element of interviews.

Customer Service Orientation: It is important for new graduates to search their prior work experiences for assignments where their attention to customer needs was tested and successful. Employers know that customers expect a friendly greeting and a higher level of satisfaction. Otherwise, the customers will take their business elsewhere.

Adaptability, Drive and Initiative: Enthusiastic, bright, and energetic, but humble, were other words used by employers to describe the new graduates they are seeking. Employers want new graduates who will fit within their corporate culture.

Proven Track Record: Employers are searching the answers given by new graduates in interviews for documented evidence of the applicant's previous conduct on the job, successful work performance behaviors, and abilities to get excellent work results.

Ability to Learn: Employers considered incidents cited by new graduates about prior work situations that demonstrated an ability to learn important. According to recruiters, new hires in their organizations will encounter numerous predicaments in the normal flow of their work activities, which will require an enthusiastic eagerness to acquire new knowledge or master additional understanding.

Preparation for Interviewing: If new graduates expect to be successful when interviewing, they must be prepared. An ample knowledge about the organization conducting the interview is a necessity. Be on time for the interview. Be familiar with the work performed by the employers, dress the part, ask for the job, and ask good, intelligent questions.

Passion for Work: A convincing work ethic is desired. Employers wish to determine if new graduates want to work or just get paid. Employers are requesting new graduates who enjoy working, thinking, listening, and expressing themselves.

Career Interests: Employers plead for new graduates who are organized and not lost. New graduates ought to have a serious interest in the career opportunities offered by employers. The employers want new hires, who are highly motivated, because they want the new graduates to develop successful careers in their chosen professions. Realistic expectations are desirable too. Employers want new graduates who are goal driven and interested in the career offerings provided by the employers.

Changes in Recruitment Caused by the Internet

Several changes have occurred in the campus recruitment efforts of surveyed organizations because of information obtained from the Internet

Because of the Internet and web sites, brochures and campus information sessions are less important, although employers have more visibility on campuses. Graduating students can go to an organization's web site for most information. Prior to campus interviews, graduating students are more knowledgeable about an organization, which maintains a web site. According to employers, the Internet is an excellent resource for helping graduating students understand an organization. Thus, more advertising money is directed at the web, and less is focused on the print media. The web site and email addresses for organizations are provided on all information given to graduating students.

Thomas D. Mack Vice President and Director of Multicultural Marketing Lincoln National Life Company Fort Wayne, Indiana

First, the Financial Services/Insurance industry is going through a consolidation phase. In my opinion our industry is just beginning and will be in this mode for the next few years. This environment will lead to high mergers and acquisitions activity. Companies often look for cost reductions after these mergers and acquisitions, eliminating duplication and unnecessary expenses. Basically there will be a lot of chaos in our industry over the coming years. What does all this means to graduates of 1998? It means there will be tremendous opportunities in the Financial/Insurance arena. Chaos breeds opportunity! As these companies continue to go through changes at unprecedented speed, they will need people who are comfortable being uncomfortable. They will need people who can become change agents. I know the readers of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN are prepared to meet that challenge. The areas of opportunity that will grow despite continued consolidation are in marketing and sales. The main driver for these opportunities is the changing demographics of the U.S., which is increasingly becoming more diverse every year. Companies must now attract ethnic consumers in large numbers as customers, if they hope to be in business in the future. Companies that hire and train people from these markets will have a strategic advantage in gaining the market share necessary to survive. Therefore, I predict the employment opportunities for the Class of 1998 will only get better with time in the financial services arena.

Ann Lazarus Director, Diversity and Minority Vendor Development Federated Department Stores, Inc. Cincinnati, Ohio

While not specifically a "special strategy," students should not limit their access to the job market in any way, or discount any potential networking opportunity. This includes time spent with anyone even remotely connected to an industry or career interest: if your aunt Gert had a college roommate who is vice president in charge of your dream job, take her up on the offer to contact that alumnus for you as an introduction. You may be surprised how far you can get with simple introductions, and how much farther you can get by asking for those introductions.

Further, the more relevant experience you can gain during the college career, the more compelling your argument will be for acceptance by a corporation A well-designed intern ship program offers significant benefits to both the student and Federated: early awareness on-the-job experience and a deeper familiarity at the point of the hiring decision.

Michael Van Grinsven, CLU Assistant Director, Recruitment and Campus Development Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Think about going into business for yourself. In 1900, 50 percent of all Americans were self-employed, primarily in agriculture. In 1977, 93 percent of Americans worked for a company or someone else. Demographers say this was the high point for employer-employee relationships. It is estimated that between the years 2000 and 2010, once again 50 percent of Americans will be self-employed. This time they will be consultants, freelancers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs You should think about a career in sales and marketing that will help you develop skills that are ethical in an entrepreneurial environment.

Billy Dexter Director of International and Diversity Recruiting Deloitte & Touche Wilton, CT

The outlook for the professional service industry (accounting, finance, consulting) is very bright. There is a tremendous opportunity for college graduates in 1998 to find employment opportunities within the traditional "Big Six" firms. It is an exciting time in our industry because of consolidations and mergers and the traditional accounting firm is changing rapidly to become more consultative in nature. There are still plenty of opportunities in accounting and auditing, but the firms are also looking for liberal arts, engineering, law, and MBA graduates. At Deloitte & Touche, we will hire over 2,500 college graduates for a variety of exciting career paths for opportunities domestically and internationally. The students that have had solid academic performance and good communication and analytical skills are the most attractive to D&T.

Lewis Willis Staffing Services Manager AutoZone Memphis, Tennessee

One of AutoZone's biggest competitive advantages is technology and systems. To support these systems, we need qualified people with good computer and application development skills. These demands are true, not only in our industry, but in just about all others. Applicants with some work or internship experience in the computer field will have an edge.

Robert Hecker Second Vice President, Enterprise Staffing UNUM Portland, Maine

Insurance, like most industries, is going through significant change. Business consolidation, global competition and consumer demand for innovative products and services are increasing the demand for highly talented people in areas such as sales, marketing, customer service, finance, information systems, underwriting and benefits.

Leading firms are actively seeking people, who are motivated to achieve, dedicated to excellence, and able to bring innovative thinking to problems and solutions. The demand for talent is especially strong in the sales and information systems areas right now.

Debbie Herd College Relations Manager JC Penney, Dallas, Texas

Today's job market is very good. A student should have many opportunities available to him/her. A student should adequately investigate each company's personality, values and business ethics. The student's ultimate job decision should not be based solely on income, but on corporate fit.

Michael H. Campbell Administrator-Recruiter Caddo Parish School Board Shreveport, LA

By any measure, the outlook for 1998 graduates in education is outstanding, both from an immediate employment prospective and for the long-range career advancement potential There is already a critical shortage of African-American teachers (the majority of whom will be eligible to retire within five to 10 years). Additionally, two million more teachers must be found over the next 20 years to accommodate the increased number of school-aged children (most of whom will be non-white). There are current shortages of teachers in certain categories regardless of ethnic consideration. These shortages may vary slightly from region to region. Here, in Louisiana the critical need areas are math, science, special education (all areas) and elementary education (including early childhood). Other regions have expressed difficulty in finding foreign language and English as second language teachers. To alleviate existing shortages in critical need areas: some states and school systems have instituted alternative certification paths to employment for non-education graduates. Anyone who has the desire to teach should have very little difficulty finding an opportunity to enter and progress in this most rewarding of professions.

Pamela Joell University Relations Department CIGNA Corporation, Bloomfield, CT

The CIGNA Companies will recruit over 300 college undergraduate and graduate students for positions in our divisions both at the bachelor's and master's level. This number represents an increasing trend of our hiring patterns aver the last few years and underscores our commitment to the development and strengthening of our employees as we prepare for the next century. CIGNA recruits at over 85 colleges and universities throughout the United States, we currently have 15 schools in our corporate targeted university program. We participate in on campus recruiting heavily for full-time opportunities in the fall and again in the spring for our intern and co-op positions As one of the oldest leading worldwide providers of a variety of insurance and Financial service products, CIGNA has opportunities for students interested in careers in Underwriting, Actuarial Science, Technology, Investments, Business, Healthcare, Customer Service and Human Resources. Our seven lines of business typically, look for a variety of majors. Core competency skills vary by division, but overall we are looking for academically talented, creative, committed persons, who are willing to take risks, communicate well, and work hard in contributing to our goals of customer satisfaction provided in a cost-effective, ethical way Students who are comfortable with change, poised for the future. can demonstrate not only a superior academic bach ground, but initiative, leadership, customer service, and strong communication skills will succeed at CIGNA. Students entering CIGNA must also be comfortable functioning in a matrix-managed environment. CIGNA, along with other progressive organizations, is positioning itself for the future, and typical hierarchical management techniques no longer are in vogue. Students must be able to function as well as both team members and leaders.

George Brewster Manager of Recruiting and Temporary Employment Corning Incorporated Corning, New York

I believe that you will see slightly improved hiring opportunities for the Class of 1998 over the Class of 1997. Demand remains strong for the high tech industries and manufacturing sectors of the U.S. Computer and electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, accounting, and optical physics are high demand majors this year. With the advent of word processing and the merging of company addresses, the student should be sure that the name of the addressee and the name of the company are the same. Students should take every opportunity they can, without hurting their studying habits, to attend the student chapters of professional societies and listen to the guest speakers. The student should meet with the guest speaker after the presentation to determine if there are opportunities in that company or, if not, does the company representative know who might be interested in the student's background. Networking is the strategy that can set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

Works Cited

Scheetz, L. Patrick, Ph.D. Recruiting Trends 1997-98. A Study of Businesses, Industries, and Governmental Agencies Employing New College Graduates, 27th Edition. Collegiate Employment Research Institute: Michigan State University, 1997.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1997. Economy at a Glance. 80/eag.table.html.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. 1997. Employment Situation Summary.

3 Maney, Kevin. 1997. "Lawyers Circling Over 2000 Time Bomb," USA Today. 1 December, p. B1.

4 National Center for Education Statistics. 1997. Projections of Education Statistics to 2007. 26th Edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement (NCES 97-382).

L. Patrick Scheetz Ph.D., is director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute and assistant director of Career Services and Placement at Michigan State University. He is the author of the annual Recruiting Trends report published at Michigan State University.

Rebecca A. Gratz is a graduate student at Michigan State University completing a master's degree in Labor and Industrial Relations/Human Resources.
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Title Annotation:includes predictions from top executives from leading industries
Author:Scheetz, Patrick; Gratz, Rebecca
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Feb 1, 1998
Previous Article:The top 100 employers and the majors in demand.
Next Article:If you don't have a job by graduation, get busy!

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