The Spartan Podcast

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by Hannah Watts

After several years of modest growth, the Recruiting Trends report is showing an increase in hiring for newly-minted degree holders that is expected to jump a whopping 16 percent in 2014-15. The annual survey, produced in part by Michigan State University economist Phil Gardner, is the nation’s largest with nearly 5,700 companies responding.

“Employers are recruiting new college graduates at levels not seen since the dot-com frenzy of 1999-2000,” says Gardner, director of MSU’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute. “Competition for qualified candidates is escalating to a degree rarely seen in the past 10 years.

“Though economic news and forecasts aren’t always painted in positive ways in the media, we see companies growing in technologies and other areas where they need more people; there’s all the ingredients for a really positive job market.”

An evolving change in the way employers evaluate undergraduate students is that they’re looking to develop young leaders to create a pool of experienced, desirable and hireable grads, adds Gardner.

“There are a number of companies more interested in developing talent than just hiring someone into a job, and they look to begin developing relationships with prospective students when they’re freshmen,” he says. “They require multiple experiences from students who have to challenge themselves outside of their normal experiences.”

Though the job market looks good for grads, Gardner projects young people are going to face continual disruptions in their careers in the form of technology advancement and changing expectations.

“When they get out there and see the jobs begin to change, they are going to have to be agile and flexible and confident enough to make changes quickly or they’re going to get trapped,” he says. “Before, most people didn’t have to change and think about that as much as young people do now.”

A specialized degree is becoming less desirable as potential employers are now looking for prospects with a broad range of skills and a willingness to step out of their comfort zones.

“Not only do students need mastery of a discipline, but they need to have broader skill sets including teamwork skills, communication skills and cultural awareness,” he explains. “You have to be able to work with different people and transcend functional, organizational, cultural and government boundaries.”

However, these skills aren’t gained overnight. They are developed, and by aligning academic and professional experience, Michigan State Career Services hopes to change the face of undergraduate experience into a collaborative front.

“It’s going to require everyone that participates in it to change the way that they look at the world and how they put it together,” he says. “This isn’t the golden ticket that says, ‘I get a job for being a college graduate.’ The market will continue to operate in favor of the graduates, but not unless they’re ready.”

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