Don’t panic, col­lege se­niors: Jobs for grads likely to grow


The con­sult­ing and ac­count­ing firm EY is ag­gres­sively re­cruit­ing on col­lege cam­puses this spring. The com­pany for­merly known as Ernst & Young plans to hire 9,000 grad­u­ates from U.S. uni­ver­si­ties this year, up from 7,500 in 2014. But re­cruit­ing isn’t as easy as it used to be.

“I’m see­ing a lot more com­pe­ti­tion” from ri­val em­ploy­ers, says Dan Black, EY’s Amer­i­cas re­cruit­ing leader.

That’s good news for col­lege se­niors and grad­u­ate stu­dents pre­par­ing to ac­cept diplo­mas this spring, and a sign that new grad­u­ates will fare bet­ter than they did in 2014. The La­bor Depart­ment re­ported on Thurs­day that the un­em­ploy­ment rate for Amer­i­cans in their 20s who re­ceived a four-year or ad­vanced de­gree last year rose to 12.4 per­cent from 10.9 per­cent in 2013.

“This is a real break­out year,” said Philip Gard­ner, direc­tor of Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity’s Col­le­giate Em­ploy­ment Re­search In­sti­tute. In a sur­vey of em­ploy­ers last fall, the em­ploy­ment cen­ter found that hir­ing of grad­u­ates with fouryear de­grees will rise 16 per­cent this year. “It’s led by the ones you would ex­pect — en­gi­neer­ing and busi­ness,” Gard­ner said. “But there seems to be a lot of room for every­body ... Even arts and hu­man­i­ties are mak­ing a come­back.”

Em­ploy­ers have more open­ings to fill be­cause Baby Boomers are re­tir­ing and more work­ers are feel­ing con­fi­dent enough about the econ­omy to switch jobs. Over­all, the United States gen­er­ated 3.1 mil­lion jobs last year, the most since 1999. The over­all un­em­ploy­ment rate has fallen to 5.5 per­cent in March from 6.7 per­cent at the end of 2013.

Tyler Et­ten, 22, had a US$54,000-a-year job in fi­nance wait­ing for him when he grad­u­ated from Iowa State Uni­ver­sity in May 2014. Three months later, he bounced to an even bet­ter job with the in­vest­ment firm Piper Jaf­fray in Min­neapo­lis. His 3.5 grade point av­er­age helped. But Et­ten says he set him­self apart by get­ting in­tern­ships, par­tic­i­pat­ing in cam­pus clubs and spend­ing his spare time learn­ing fi­nan­cial mod­el­ing and ad­vanced Excel skills.

Col­lege Grad­u­ates’ Wages Lag

“A de­gree is not enough with record amounts of peo­ple grad­u­at­ing from col­lege,” he said.

In par­tic­u­lar, em­ployer de­mand for so-called STEM grad­u­ates — in science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics — is high. “We can’t grad­u­ate enough en­gi­neers,” said Holly Prof­fitt, em­ployer re­la­tions co­or­di­na­tor in the ca­reer ser­vices of­fice at Arkansas State Uni­ver­sity.

Still, many re­cent col­lege grads are strug­gling and have yet to en­joy a full re­cov­ery from the dark days of the Great Re­ces­sion.

In a re­port last year, re­searchers at the Fed­eral Re­serve Bank of San Fran­cisco found that wages for re­cent col­lege grad­u­ates haven’t kept up with over­all wages since the Great Re­ces­sion. Be­tween 2007 and 2014, me­dian wages for all full-time work­ers rose 15 per­cent. For re­cent col­lege grads, they rose just 6 per­cent. The same thing hap­pened af­ter the 2001 re­ces­sion: Col­lege grads’ wages lagged be­hind ev­ery­one else’s as the econ­omy re­cov­ered, the re­port said.

The Michi­gan State sur­vey found that 62 per­cent of em­ploy­ers were plan­ning to keep start­ing wages flat for col­lege grads com­pared to last year; 37 per­cent planned to in­crease start­ing salaries. The in­creases tended to range from 3 per­cent to 5 per­cent.

El­iz­a­beth Earl, 22, landed a job at a health care trade pub­li­ca­tion af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Columbia Col­lege Chicago in De­cem­ber. The pay is low and the work te­dious, but she’s re­lieved she has a job.

“By the time you get out, you as­sume you’ll be a barista,” she said. “It’s not idyl­lic nor at all what I want to do, but it is a job from which I can be get­ting paid while I con­sider ca­reer paths.”

Josh Kelly, 23, is hop­ing to break into ra­dio or jour­nal­ism af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity in Jan­uary. In the mean­time, he’s work­ing at a record store and living with five peo­ple in New Brunswick, New Jer­sey. The job search has proven frus­trat­ing, even though he had an in­tern­ship with a ra­dio com­pany and was pres­i­dent of a stu­dent-run ra­dio sta­tion.

Kelly said he was dis­heart­ened to learn that many com­pa­nies use al­go­rithms to scan re­sumes for par­tic­u­lar key­words. He thought hu­man re­cruiters were re­view­ing his ap­pli­ca­tions, “yet now the pic­ture seems to be that most hir­ing agents don’t nec­es­sar­ily see my re­sume at all.”

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