Job market to improve for 2013 college graduates

West Lafayette, Indiana - As the job market for recent college graduates continues its rebound, employers are making more concentrated recruiting efforts on university campuses.

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., has seen a marked difference over the last three years. In 2009-10, when the U.S. recession had its greatest impact on campus recruitment, about 400 companies conducted interviewing through Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities. This fall 933 unique companies recruited on campus.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers' annual fall survey of employers indicates that employers expect to hire 13 percent more new college graduates in 2013 than a year ago.

"In terms of the number of schools employers are visiting to recruit students, we're not seeing a tremendous increase but a very subtle one," NACE researcher Ed Koc said. "Employers have become more focused on certain places that produce graduates who fit their needs."

Purdue hosts campus interviewing activities and numerous job fairs each year at which some 1,200-1,400 companies visit campus and meet with students seeking internships or full employment.

"This is certainly strong recruitment," said Timothy Luzader, director of Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities "We've had to be creative to find additional interviewing space for an overflow of recruiters during job fairs and heavy recruitment periods. Some companies opted to choose different dates when interviewing space on campus was more readily available. Employers want to be efficient in their recruiting efforts. One way to do that is to focus on the core schools they visit where they feel they can have the best results. So, it's a very big deal to be a core school."

Tony Denhart, region manager of university relations for General Electric, says Purdue is a prime recruiting area for the corporation.

"There are endless reasons why Purdue continues to be one of GE's top universities," he said. "The education Purdue provides is one of reasons that GE has historically hired more students from Purdue than any other university. The education, coupled with the soft skills, sets Purdue students apart. GE knows that the Purdue students will arrive at GE with the leadership, communication and critical thinking skills needed to compete in a global world."

Statistics generated by the Center for Career Opportunities' postgraduate survey identifies graduates who are still seeking or have accepted employment, are entering graduate school or confirming other plans such as service in the Peace Corps, Teach for America or postgraduate fellowships. Specific employment data points to an upward trend for students. Of May 2009 graduates, 63.8 percent who participated in a survey reported that they had accepted employment within six months in an area that was relevant to them. The number jumped to 66.3 percent in 2011.

"That doesn't sound like big difference, but it's actually pretty significant - and we're anticipating another bump this year," Luzader said. "When we're in a robust market, we see about 70 percent."

Purdue also is a hotspot for prime employment areas, such as engineering and pharmaceutical manufacturing. According to the NACE survey, the job market for college graduates is expected to be strong in those areas, along with computer and electronics manufacturing; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and management consulting.

"There is a really intense competition for the best people in some of these areas," Koc said. "But, regardless of your major, you have to keep your GPA at a certain level. Our employers are pretty clear that they use GPA as a cutoff. You have to have to have at least a 3.0 GPA, or you could struggle finding a job."

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