Job outlook brightens for new college graduates

Economy is still rocky, but grads have better chance than in previous years

  • Mark Dabrowski, standing center, vice president of web effectiveness at Systems Alliance Inc., discusses a project with support engineer Dan Rossignol, left, and Joseph Giuffrida, right, associate technical consultant. Rossignol was hired in October 2010 after graduating college. Systems Alliance Inc., a web technology company in Hunt Valley, has increased its hiring this spring, including recent college graduates, as the company anticipates an improving economy and increased projects.
Mark Dabrowski, standing center, vice president of web effectiveness… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 09, 2011|By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

Heather Prosser will have more than a college degree when she accepts her diploma from Stevenson University on Friday. By then, Prosser also will have the first week of her first job under her belt.

A computer information systems major, Prosser had two job offers before she graduated — one from Lockheed Martin and another from Johns Hopkins HealthCare.

She went with Lockheed Martin, where she began work on Monday as a software engineer. Landing a job in the post-recession — but still rocky — economy was a big relief. "It's definitely a weight lifted off," Prosser said. "Job searching can be stressful."

For recent college graduates, the prospects of landing a job are improving, reflecting cautious optimism among employers after several dismal years, employment experts say.

Two recent national surveys show that companies expect to hire more recent college graduates this year than last. Local college career centers report greater interest from employers in hiring recent grads. And graduates with in-demand majors say they are getting multiple job offers.

Employers plan to hire 19 percent more new college graduates this year than in 2010, according to companies polled in a survey released last month by NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Those results mark the first double-digit increase in spring hiring projections since 2007, the association said.

"Employers are looking to bring in entry-level workers to build their work force," especially in areas of information technology, customer service, sales, finance, accounting and marketing, said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America. "Companies … need fresh, educated talent to fill those roles."

An annual college job forecast by CareerBuilder, which runs an online job-placement site, shows a gradual year-over-year increase in projected hiring. The share of employers planning to take on recent college graduates grew to 46 percent this year, up from 44 percent last year and 43 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, the number of job applications sent to employers surveyed jumped 45 percent over last spring, but the total number of openings tripled, according to NACE. Employers in most industries represented in the association's poll said they expected double-digit increases in hiring, but decreases were projected in the government, retail and professional services categories.

Systems Alliance Inc., a Hunt Valley-based consulting firm that designs and builds websites, is keen to hire recent college graduates. The 55-employee company has increased hiring to keep up with growing business from its health care and higher education clients and over the past six months has brought eight new staff members on board, including recent college graduates.

"Obviously, hiring a more junior resource tends to be somewhat more economical than a more experienced person commanding a higher salary," said Mark Dabrowski, vice president of the company's Web effectiveness practice.

Beyond the economic benefits of hiring young workers, though, the company appreciates entry-level employees because they don't have preconceived notions or entrenched bad habits, he said.

"We can train them in our processes quickly and effectively," Dabrowski said. "We've definitely had more hits than misses."

Instead of candidates with lengthy resumes, Systems Alliance seeks people who are motivated, intelligent and willing to learn, he continued.

Davis Miller had a business management degree from Clemson University and little technical background when he was hired by Systems Alliance in 2009, the year he graduated. Now a business development executive for the company, he credits his summer internships selling educational products door-to-door with helping him land the job.

"I think my boss liked that I could demonstrate I knew how to work hard," he said. "I knew how to be independent and motivate myself."

Directors of local college career centers say they have seen an increase this year in the number of companies visiting campus to recruit job candidates, as well as more calls from employers seeking candidates. A record 130 employers attended a career fair hosted by Loyola University Maryland this spring, up from 100 last year, said Jen Rowley, director of the university's career center.

The Johns Hopkins University, too, reports more interest from companies. "We're seeing increased employer participation in several of our career services, including the number of interviews on campus," said Mark Presnell, director of Hopkins' career center. "I think it certainly is a better market than [in] previous years for recent college grads."

Though the job prospects for new graduates have improved, the market has not rebounded to prerecession levels, when CareerBuilder surveys typically showed that about 70 percent of employers planned to hire grads — a far cry from this year's modest 46 percent, said Allison Nawoj, a CareerBuilder spokeswoman.

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