Business

Job outlook strong for 2016 graduates, especially in Iowa

'It's very strong now'

Students process through campus during Coe College's graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 8 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The G
Students process through campus during Coe College’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 8 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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In April, a month before graduating from the University of Iowa with an MBA degree, Kyle Wehr interviewed with five different companies. He had turned down two offers in the fall.

“I did have a lot of options,” Wehr said, adding that he wasn’t alone — with many of his domestic and international peers lining up interview after interview as well. “The job market felt pretty strong.”

Wehr, 25, ended up accepting a job with Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines, which employs more than 4,000 in careers related to customer service, finance, investments, insurance, marketing and other fields. He’ll start as an associate product manager for the power sports line of insurance — which he said is primarily boating insurance.

And he believes he’ll have plenty of opportunities to advance his career.

“It really is exactly what I’m looking for,” Wehr said. “I want to get into leadership or management. This role allows me to be cross-functional and have conversations with stakeholders in the business.”

Although Wehr is among the highest achievers in his class — even in the country, being named among the top 100 full-time MBA graduates of 2016 by the publication Poets & Quants — he’s not alone in his successful job search, at least in Iowa. Local colleges and universities are reporting similarly strong employment prospects for the 2016 crop of graduates.

“It’s very strong now — based on the numbers we’re seeing,” said Angi McKie, senior director of operations for the UI Pomerantz Career Center.

Nationwide, the graduate-job outlook is up — particularly since 2009, when the recession had just 17 percent of employers anticipating hiring increases compared with more than 46 percent in 2014-2015, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

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That organization’s newest projections for the class of 2016 found employers expect to hire 5.2 percent more graduates from this year’s class than last year’s class.

But the national outlook isn’t entirely rosy, as those hiring projections — released last month — are down from the 11 percent increase employers initially predicted for 2016 graduates back in November. Experts attribute the downward shift to more companies announcing plans to trim hiring, according to the national association.

“Just 13.2 percent of respondents originally reported plans to hire fewer 2016 graduates than they did 2015 graduates,” according to NACE’s April report. “Currently more than one-third say that is the case.”

And the average number of job postings for the 2015-2016 recruiting year has dropped “significantly” from last year — even as the number of applications per posting remains steady, according to the association. Employers who responded to the survey reported an average of 67 job postings for the 2015-2016 year, down from 148 the prior year.

‘We have seen a lot of growth’

But the UI and other local universities and colleges are not reporting declines in employer interest. And McKie said UI career fairs have seen more organizations interested in participating.

In the fall, 19 more organizations attended than the previous year — pushing the total number up to 180.

“We always have a waiting list for employers to come to our fairs,” she said. “We can’t accommodate enough people.”

The number of online postings for full-time positions and internships on Hireahawk.com — the university’s recruiting system — also rose to 11,748 in 2015.

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“That number grew from the year before, and we expect that number to keep going up,” McKie said. “We have seen a lot of growth in the interest of employers in using online ways to post.”

They have started tapping new mobile and virtual technology for interviews, she said. “This allows organizations to hire and get people into their hiring ‘pipeline’ quickly.”

In evaluating actual on-campus interviews, McKie said those numbers seem to be strong and steady — with about 3,000 students interviewing in fall 2014, another 1,600 interviewing last spring, and nearly 3,000 participating in on-campus interviews in fall 2015. Spring interview numbers still are being tallied, McKie said.

“But we would expect it to be consistent with last year,” she noted, adding, “all these indicators point to very good opportunities and prospects for finding employment for the graduating class of 2016.”

‘More optimistic future’

Iowa’s public and private colleges said it’s hard to verify post-graduation employment success right away — because students still are making decisions and interviewing. But many send out surveys six months to a year after graduation to see where their graduates landed, and many report numbers that indicate over 90 percent had jobs.

The UI post-graduation survey goes to former students in the colleges of liberal arts and sciences, business, engineering, nursing and education. The most recent survey sent to those who graduated in autumn 2014, spring 2015 and summer 2015 showed an overall 93.3 percent placement rate.

That number includes students who are employed, continuing their education or not seeking either.

The college with the highest rate was nursing, with more than 98 percent reporting placement.

Iowa State University’s most-recent six-month post-graduation report shows a total placement rate of nearly 95 percent. Its students with the highest placement rate are in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which reported a more than 98 percent placement rate.

Although Coe College in Cedar Rapids couldn’t provide its most recent survey results for postgraduate placement, Diana Patten, director of Coe’s Career and Life Planning, said the general mood is positive.

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“It’s not like in ’07 or ’08 when the economy tanked,” she said. “It’s a much more optimistic future.”

The Midwest is a great place to be as companies in Iowa aggressively recruit local graduates, according to Patten.

“But it really depends on what their focus is,” she said. “STEM (science, technology, education and math) students are being hired quickly.”

Among the top entry-level jobs of 2016, according to a recent WalletHub.com report, are engineer, web applications developer, architect and certified nursing assistant.

Even with the strong local job market, UI graduate Wehr credited the university — in part — for helping line up options and coordinate interviews. He said Nationwide contacted the institution’s career center, which pulled profiles of potential good fits and asked Wehr to apply.

He did, and went in for an interview a week later. After one more discussion, Nationwide made Wehr an offer.

“The career services team in the MBA program does a great job of connecting us with opportunities,” he said.

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