Job Outlook Improves for New College Grads

May 23, 2016

Tens of thousands of graduates are either entering the workforce or searching for their place in it.

And if you're a new grad looking for a job, these may be some of the best words you'll hear this spring:

"There will be an increase that pretty much brings us back to the levels of employment for recent grads that occurred before the recession."

That's Jean Salzer, director of UWM's Career Planning & Resource Center. She’s talking about predictions from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"About a third of college students at the point of graduation have positions in hand. We're hoping that by the time they are six months out or less that it'll be closer to 85-90 percent, either positions in hand, military or graduate school," Salzer says.

Salzer says the grads who typically have the speediest success are those with degrees closely aligned to careers, for instance, engineering, business, nursing and social welfare degrees.

The same is true for grads of two-year tech schools. Certain diplomas are in highest demand, according to MATC's Vice President of Student Services, Trevor Kubatzke.

"Health care, of course health care has been hot for the last decade and it continues to be so, and not just nursing but radiography and all the spectrum of the health fields. Machining, the CNC industry is still growing, they need qualified workers to run machines and do that, so we see that also," Kubatzke says.

It's the health care sector that drew Lisa Boston to MATC. Last week, the new grad stopped at the school's career center to get help finding a job. She says she studied to become a health care unit coordinator, taking classes with advancement in mind.

"So I could work my way up to do the administrator job. So that's why I did this," Boston says.

While demand for certain graduates is high, job opportunities across sectors are plentiful in Wisconsin, according to Jeff Sachse. He's a senior economist with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Sachse knows of at least 83,000 openings. He says many are appropriate for new high school grads. Yet he says the entry-level positions that require few skills are likely just a starting point.

"There's significant hiring everywhere, but the question really isn't necessarily: 'What is the job that I can get today?' It's really: 'How does that job lead me to where I ultimately want to be, say, 5-10 years down the road?'"

Sachse says many high school grads will eventually seek additional education, which will open more doors and provide higher wages. He says students who earn a college degree are paid, on average, $13,000 more a year than those with just a high school diploma.

But these days, everyone seeking his or her place in the workforce should be mindful of the rapidly-changing economy. That's advice from Todd Filter, Manpower's market vice president for Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

"What might be hot today definitely may not be hot tomorrow. And new companies may come into the area, other companies may choose a different path. Again, there's no sure things out there," Filter says.

Filter says because opportunities may change, the graduates who could end up being the most fulfilled are those who studied a subject they love -- not just what could land them today’s hottest job.