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Survey Reveals Some Optimism for Upcoming Graduates

December 1, 2008
Even amid the economic concerns nationwide, 70 percent of employers rate the job market as good or very good for 2009 graduates, according to a recent study by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based National Association of Colleges and Employers, which has been tracking the potential job market for graduates since the late 1980s.

The study also noted that employers believe they’ll be hiring about as many graduates as they planned to hire in 2008. 

Yet this relatively positive prediction comes with a caveat.

“We typically survey our employee members in August,” said Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for NACE. “When we went out in August, they planned to hire about 6 percent more graduates in 2009. And right about the time we were releasing the report, everything started happening with Wall Street and there were some company collapses. So we went back out before releasing the survey and found that companies don’t plan to increase the number of college graduates they plan to hire.”

Truth be told, she said, there will likely even be a slight decrease. But along with the potential for economic recovery, she expects the number of college grads hired in 2010 will jump tremendously.

While the numbers aren’t as glossy as they were for 2008’s graduates, there’s some optimism for the class of 2009. In the 2008 survey, the majority of respondents rated the job market for graduates as very good at 49 percent, while 31 percent rated it as good. The 2009 outlook showed 26 percent rating the job market for graduates as very good and 44 calling it good.

A major reason, Koncz said, is that companies are preparing for the future. They want to bring in college graduates and mold them into company leaders.

Koncz’s belief is echoed by San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric Co. According to Shelly Morris, director of talent acquisition at PG&E, developing leaders is one of the top reasons for stepping up the company’s college recruiting efforts.

But for PG&E, there is also a necessity to bring younger talent into an environment that primarily consists of an aging workforce. The company is rebuilding its college recruiting program to ensure there is a consistent pipeline of talent available.

Even in 2009, PG&E is bullish on college recruits.
 
“The utility industry as a whole has an aging workforce, and we need to make sure we have college talent entering our workforce. We wouldn’t have any long-term competitive advantages if we were to scale back on our college recruiting efforts right now,” Morris said.

PG&E is hardly alone. Koncz said that as baby boomers begin to retire, companies and recruiters will need to look even more closely at colleges and universities for talent. And in the present economy, she suggests that 2009 grads should be top of mind.

“The benefit [of hiring college graduates] is to get them early in their careers to train and mold them. Their salaries are also a lot lower than hiring experienced candidates,” Koncz said.

On the flip side, college grads traditionally have a higher turnover rate. “The average time a college grad will stay with PG&E is about five years,” Morris said.

That’s not an argument against college recruiting. Morris said it’s a key reason for companies and recruiters to develop college recruiting programs and keep future grads in the pipeline.

—Jon Hindman

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