Students seeking employment may now have an easier time as the job market enters an upswing.
According to the Job Outlook 2012 Spring Update released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers last month, employers nationwide are expected to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates this academic year than during 2010-2011.
The average number of jobs employers are posting nationally has also risen by 10.5 percent, the report shows.
This trend is partially manifested at Penn, but Patricia Rose — director of Career Services — felt that the employment situation would not be significantly different from last year for Penn students.
“The numbers from last year were phenomenal,” Rose said, adding that only 6 percent of the class of 2011 reported that they were still seeking work six months after graduation. “That’s the lowest it’s ever been.”
She added that the total number of reported job offers made to last year’s seniors was 381, a 7-percent increase from the class of 2010. The current figure for this year is 413, although recruiting is still going on.
“It will be a very strong year, our career fairs were maxed out, but it will be broadly similar to last year,” Rose said.
Management professor Matthew Bidwell, who studies employment patterns, felt that the job market will look slightly better this year as the economic recovery continues.
“The job market continues to gradually pick up, after the Armageddon in 2009,” he said.
Bidwell added that improvements in business confidence — perceptions of the market demand — may be driving the rise in college hires nationally.
“Last year or so, there was a general terror about the Euro, but employers are more comfortable now.”
Other factors he identified that may have undermined confidence in previous years included “a gradual working off of consumer debt” and “a vicious cycle of consumers cutting back on spending.”
Bidwell does not expect to see dramatic improvements in the jobs situation anytime soon, however.
“It’s still not massively strong. A significant part of the story last year was the government cutting back on spending at various levels, state and federal, which undermined confidence,” he said.
Business confidence may have a particularly acute effect on college hiring as many employers see students as more of a longer-term investment than applicants in the workforce.
“You have to train new graduates, but you can get a lot of work out of them,” Bidwell said. “Hiring isn’t just driven by immediate needs, but what employers will need in a couple of years’ time,” he added.
Other findings from the NACE survey included the importance of verbal communication skills, which ranked as the most-valued quality employers look for in students, ahead of decision-making capacity and quantitative analysis.
“It’s consistent with a lot of studies which show that employers really value soft skills,” Bidwell said. “Attitude and the ability to get on with people are important,” he added.
While Rose agreed that soft skills may differentiate graduates in the workplace after they are hired, she felt that Penn students should not be too concerned about what qualities employers will look for.
“These are skills many Penn students possess, across schools and majors,” she said.
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