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Hiring outlook for college graduates is the strongest in 10 years

Fresno State graduating students sit in their seats waiting for the 2015 commencement to begin. A new survey says about 67 percent of employers intend to hire 2016 graduates (up from 65 percent in 2015).
Fresno State graduating students sit in their seats waiting for the 2015 commencement to begin. A new survey says about 67 percent of employers intend to hire 2016 graduates (up from 65 percent in 2015). Fresno Bee file

A new CareerBuilder survey of employers indicates that 2016 college graduates will enjoy the strongest hiring market in 10 years.

That’s great news for graduates who have business, computer and information science, or engineering degrees. Those professions and others that require math, statistics, clinical health and other high-tech training have well-paying openings.

But employers and college career officers report a mismatch in the jobs and the skills of job hunters. Some of the mismatch is due to graduates having the “wrong” majors, and some of it (right or wrong) is due to perceptions of employability.

About 67 percent of employers reached in the survey said they intend to hire new graduates this year (up from 65 percent in 2015), but many expressed concern about graduates’ lack of “real-world learning.”

More worrisome than inadequate hands-on experience was some employers’ perceptions that recent graduates lack interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Many of the survey respondents said they need a combination of technical and broad communication, leadership and teamwork abilities.

The survey focused on four-year college graduates, but the same concerns apply to graduates of two-year community colleges and other technical certification programs.

Many high-tech manufacturers are begging for qualified workers. But there aren’t enough trained and interested graduates in those fields nationally. Some of the mismatch might be due to rigid qualifications set for specific jobs. An absolute demand for a candidate to have a bachelor’s degree eliminates possible candidates who have associate degrees or career experience in the field and could handle the job.

According to the report, “information technology and customer service jobs top the list of position types for which employers hiring recent college grads are recruiting. Opportunities also abound in finance/accounting, business development and sales.”

Graduates with those majors, particularly if buttressed by internships, may land jobs with nice starting pay. The survey said 27 percent of the job offers are likely to be for $50,000 a year or more, 20 percent for between $40,000 and $50,000, and 28 percent in the $30,000-$40,000 range.

Another sign of the improved job market for sought-after graduates is that more than two-thirds of the employers surveyed said they are willing to negotiate starting salary offers.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star. stafford@kcstar.com, 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford, kansascity.com/workplace

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