By CRAIG FREILICH
Job prospects for the Class of 2012 at Potsdam and Canton colleges is definitely brighter than it was for the classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to career services staff.
But none of recent graduates should expect a cakewalk into the world of work.
“I don’t think we’re seeing any drastic increases this year, but it’s creeping up, turning around,” said Karen Ham, director of career planning at SUNY Potsdam.
“The initial reports are very positive” in terms of the numbers of this year’s graduates who have scored jobs or are considering offers, SAID Jeffrey Taylor, Clarkson University’s career center director.
In surveys of students, SUNY Canton has found large numbers of automotive, mechanical and engineering students had jobs lined up by March or April, said career services director David Norenberg.
And at St. Lawrence University, Assistant Dean for Career Services Carol Bate said “We saw a first little uptick last year, and we anticipate more this year.”
Their observations are backed up by recent reports from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), one of which says “employers responding to the 2012 Job Outlook Spring Update say they expect to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates from the college Class of 2012 than they did from the Class of 2011.”
Even though SUNY Potsdam conducted its annual graduate outlook survey a month earlier this year than last, in March rather than April, Ham said they recorded a three percent increase in students who had already landed a job, “and that’s in line with the slight increase” that NACE has reported, she said.
The number of jobs employers have posted with Potsdam for student placement during March, April and May this year was up by 20 percent over the same period last year, a decidedly positive indicator of a job market for graduates that is on the upswing, Ham said.
“And we’ve sent out more resume packages than last year” from students looking for a specific kind of work to employers looking for graduates for those jobs, she said.
Ham noted it is good to see in the wake of the “great recession … 2008 was probably the worst year in 15 or 20 years.”
Teacher recruitment is also up, Ham said. “Last year was the worst in 20-some years in having recruiters attend” the school’s gathering for employers of teachers, but this year 35 recruiters were there, compared with 27 last year.
But one interesting fact about this year’s teacher recruiting was that two-thirds attending were from outside New York, while the split more typically has been 60-40 with New York recruiters in the majority.
Many recruiters at career fairs have been saying for a couple of years that their hiring was up, according to SUNY Canton’s Norenberg, but he said he had seen no great hiring increase from them. But in general, things are improving, he said.
In particular, “We can’t fill the demand for automotive technicians in the northern half of the state,” he said.
And he said demand is strong for SUNY Canton graduates from their two- and four-year programs in health, animal science, manufacturing and transport.
At graduation, 70 percent of students said they either had landed a job or were going to continue their education.
Many technical jobs are opening up with retirements of older workers, Norenberg said. IBM, for instance, has been hiring grads from the two-year programs with electrical and mechanical concentrations to fill a gap from retirements.
So has Novelis, a company with an aluminum recycling and reconstitution plant in Oswego that announced a $200 million expansion a year ago, and needs plenty of workers to handle the increased capacity.
He also noted that automotive technology students are not being hired just by automotive companies, but also by makers, dealers and maintainers of construction and other equipment in related fields.
He believes those SUNY Canton graduates are highly desirable not just due to their mechanical skills, but also because of their skills in math and communications.
SLU’s Bate said many graduates there are having success finding jobs in business-related fields such as financial services, marketing and sales, and she has seen an increase in demand for people at business management consulting firms. That could be “indicative of the economy, where companies are still looking at strategic ways to improve” their performance and bottom lines, she said.
Bate noted “this year’s class did better with placement prior to commencement.”
Meanwhile, as many as a quarter of SLU’s new grads will go directly to working on higher degrees.
While employers have been “a bit cautious” about hiring over the last three years, Clarkson’s Taylor said the upward hiring trend reported by NACE “concurs with the trends we see both on campus with recruiters and initial reports from the Class of 2012” which was surveyed before they left campus.
There has also been an increase for the third consecutive year in the number of jobs employers have asked to be posted with the Clarkson career center.
Another indicator of an improving employment picture is in the number of attendees at campus career fairs. The number of employers was up 23 percent for last fall’s job fair and 19 percent at this spring’s fair at Clarkson over the previous year’s figures.
NACE also has good news for students in several of Clarkson’s major fields.
Taylor said NACE rates engineering, computer science, and business as the three most in-demand graduate categories right now, “so Clarkson’s graduates in those fields should fare well.
“Not that there are not opportunities for arts and sciences graduates, but from a national perspective, these are the three in highest demand.”
NACE has reported that there have been 33 applications per position among the employers they surveyed, “so it’s not like there are tons of jobs, but there is more opportunity than there has been,” according to Potsdam’s Ham.
“So it’s going to be competitive,” she said, with people who have been laid off still looking for work as the next graduating class hits the street. “They’re going to have to put time and energy into their job search.”
And as has been the case more and more in recent years, “they have to be flexible. They might not get their dream job right away, and they might have to look at different regions” since job prospects vary, in different fields and in different regions.
“It can be discouraging,” applying and getting rejections and sending out more applications, she said, “but stick with it,” she advises. “Finding a job is a job,” and people should work at it daily.
So finding good work will have its challenges for this year’s fresh graduates, but SLU’s Bate says there has been “improvement this year over last, and last year we saw a small improvement over the year before. It’s encouraging, and we hope we will continue to see an upward trend.”