College graduates face better job prospects this year than in any since the recession. That doesn’t mean finding a job is easier than it’s been, but there are more of them.
“In general, we’re seeing certain occupations or sectors that are getting better,” said Jennifer Pigeon, manager of career services and K-14 relations at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.
That view is seconded by Amanda Nycz, director of career services at St. Norbert College in De Pere, and Linda Peacock-Landrum, who holds the same position at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“This past year we’ve definitely seen an increase in hiring. There have been more job postings and an increased presence (of employers) at job fairs,” Peacock-Landrum said.
St. Norbert senior Emily Collins, 21, who graduates today, said classmates who’ve gotten jobs give her hope.
“I think the jobs are out there as long as you are doing your part and looking for them,” Collins said. “It’s really helpful to at least have a little plan.”
Technical college graduates find jobs quicker than graduates of four-year schools, mostly because they often are training for specific jobs. And more of their students are older and have some work experience.
Mark Hickman will graduate Monday from NWTC. Hickman, 54, was a warehouse foreman at Bay Shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay when he was laid off in September 2010.
“I always preached to my workers to keep your skills fresh,” he said.
Taking his own advice, he entered NWTC’s two-year supply chain management program, which he completed in a year and a half.
He was hired by The Manitowoc Co., where he is a warehouse supervisor.
“The manager said he hired me because I had 30 years’ work experience and I upgraded my skills. He said that was the key ingredient,” he said.
Networking remains one of the best tools for finding jobs, Nycz said.
“This is my sixth professional job. Every single one, I knew someone at the place I ended up working,” she said.
Up to 70 percent of jobs are gotten through knowing someone, Nycz said.
ocial networking sites, such as LinkedIn, internships and job fairs all are ways to network.
Peacock-Landrum said some companies will post openings on LinkedIn or through other networks, but not their websites.
Collins interned at one company where she interviewed and has another coming up where at least one employee is a St. Norbert College grad.
“It makes it much more comfortable to know someone is there to help you,” she said.
Job availability is across the board; manufacturing, engineering, information technology and health care are among the leaders.
“We have a high need from employers for computer science grads,” Nycz said. “They are looking at people with high technical skills, who have that critical thinking.”
One of the few subjects to cross the divide in this supercharged political climate is the need for more qualified manufacturing employees. The administrations of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, are quick to tout the advantages of manufacturing careers.
“It’s about educating the general work force that manufacturing is a viable career and it’s right here in our backyard,” Pigeon said.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Wednesday released an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers that found that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for nonmanufacturing workers.
“I don’t think students understand what’s available for them in manufacturing, and the support roles are fewer. I think that’s why our students don’t think immediately about manufacturing,” Peacock-Landrum said.
Nycz said middle management jobs are increasing, as are sales and marketing opportunities.
“Construction jobs seem to be coming back as well. I had two employers this week contact me about construction students,” Pigeon said.