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Employment outlook improves for some Florida college graduates despite recruitment slowdown

Published Jan. 12, 2013

If you're in the next crop of Florida college graduates hitting the job market in the spring, here are a few sobering findings:

A huge number of employers sat on the fence during the typical fall recruitment period, waiting for the federal budget mess to shake out before making offers. Three-fourths of companies say they aren't increasing salaries. There's a surplus of newly minted MBAs and lawyers flooding the market. And even though internships are picking up, you're less likely to be paid for it here than elsewhere in the country.

Fear not, though, as there are plenty of reasons to look at that champagne glass at graduation as half-full:

Graduates are still faring much better finding a job than their less-educated counterparts. And those employers who are recruiting aren't just honing in on STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) graduates; hiring is up across the board, with those majoring in marketing, computer science, advertising, communications and financial services all toward the top of the recruitment charts.

"Financial services is probably the one thing saving the college hiring market," economist and statistician Phil Gardner told about 170 corporate recruiters, staffing agencies and college representatives during a program at the University of Tampa on Friday morning.

The event, cosponsored by the career centers at UT and the University of South Florida, was intended to give recruiters insight into the overall hiring environment for students still reeling from the Great Recession.

"No recession has hit youth harder than this one. … Educated youth unemployment is a global problem," said Gardner, who runs the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University.

Among the trends:

• Computer science grads with some software engineering training are in demand. Nursing jobs came in second in the Florida survey.

• Beyond internships, job fairs and college visits, tapping into alumni with college ties has "come out of nowhere" to become a major source for recruiting, Gardner said.

• Some employers are targeting and tracking potential hires earlier in the pipeline, as soon as their freshman year in college.

• Florida employers are more likely to seek experienced hires over new grads than the national norm.

Florida's unemployment rate for those with a college degree is under 5 percent, compared to more than 8 percent for all Florida workers and more than 9 percent for high school graduates with no college.

• Employers aren't always happy with their options. Recruiters griped about dealing with grads who had unrealistic salary expectations, an overinflated sense of self and abilities, an attitude of entitlement, and, perhaps, still some growing up to do.

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"You can't call Mom and Dad when you make a mistake" at your job, Gardner said. "It isn't going to work."

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