Job prospects brighter for SC’s college grads this year

rburris@thestate.comMay 8, 2013 

Students from all eight University of South Carolina campuses gathered for the ceremony for baccalaureate, master’s and professional-degrees winter commencement exercises in the Colonial Life Arena Monday. Former South Carolina head football coach Lou Holtz delivered the commencement speech.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Students who will be graduating this week from the University of South Carolina have much brighter chances for landing jobs than in 2012, a new USC report shows.

In fact, job prospects may be as good as ever – for the right candidates with the right mix of academics and work skill, the report says.

“Both job and internship postings are at all-time record levels, and students are finding opportunities throughout the state, locally and nationally,” said Tom Halasz, director of the USC Career Center, where the report was produced.

Full-time job postings this year at the USC Career Center are up 32 percent over last year, Halasz said, and internship postings are up 38 percent over 2012, he said.

Hiring this spring is happening in the fields of technology, engineering, accounting, computer science, supply chain management, sales management and health care, the center reported. Halasz also said there are signs teachers are being hired again.

The USC Career Center assists current students and graduates with career management skills, such as aid with job searches, interview preparation, internships and graduate school entrance.

The center puts on an average of five career fairs each spring, and this year, with state unemployment at 8.4 percent rather than 8.9 percent in March 2012, it saw employer participation at the fairs increase by 13 percent. Halasz says what sets the USC Career Center apart and puts the school’s graduates to work is that the center’s staff goes out and brings hiring employers to the school.

“We stress to students about the importance of gaining experience,” Halasz said. “Faculty, staff and university leadership stresses that, and the students get it. And, we are focusing a lot of time and attention making sure that students have those opportunities.

“Our staff goes on the road, spends a lot of time with employers talking about their job openings and intern opportunities, to make sure that our students in turn have the opportunity to apply for these positions,” Halasz said.

Abby Chisholm, 23, a physical education major, graduates in two days from USC, and is looking to be a full-time teacher either in South Carolina or in Virginia, her boyfriend’s home state. Chisholm said she will begin applying for teaching jobs soon.

“I know a lot of people within the major who already have jobs and that’s more than our major has had in the past few years,” Chisholm said. Her soon-to-be-employed friends have mostly gone online to various school district websites to apply for work, Chisholm said, meeting with some success.

A few years ago, when her brother graduated, most of his friends did not have employment lined up, she said. Chisholm will work from May to Aug. 20 at a Boy Scout summer camp in the Florida Keys. “It’ll be a good thing to put on my resume, working with young adults in that type of environment – high adventure.”

While the job market is improving, it is still very competitive, experts said.

Employers will leave positions vacant rather than fill them with candidates that don’t meet all their qualifications, Halasz said, which could explain the disconnect between employers having vacancies and candidates looking for jobs.

Nationally, the job market is improving marginally.

Employers expect to hire 2.1 percent more new college graduates this year than they did last year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Halasz said. Starting salaries also are expected to rise for this year’s graduating class. The median starting salary for a graduate earning a bachelor’s degree was $44,928, a 5.3 percent increase over last year, the survey showed.

“I would think the job outlook is better this year than it’s been any year since the recession,” said Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo chief economist in Charlotte. “But it’s hard to say it has improved much more than that.

“Folks are still remaining pretty cautious. You would think given the rise in the stock market, the rebound in home prices that we’ve seen, that the recovery has gained a lot of momentum,” he said. “But when you look at things like income growth, and even corporate profits, they are both growing very modestly.”

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