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Job market looks good for grads

Graduating seniors this year will enter the best job market in four years, according to a report published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates.

Employers are expected to hire 14.5 percent more new college graduates than last year, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2006 report, which includes USF input according to Michael Tooke, assistant director for the Career Center and manager of its employer relations program, .

One reason for the employment jump is the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age, Tooke said.

“For every two (baby boomers) that are leaving, there is only one person coming out of the colleges with the necessary skills set,” Tooke said.

Tooke said USF graduates will benefit not only from the national increase in post-collegiate employment, but also from a 10-20 percent increase in jobs and a 4-6 percent increase in salaries in the Tampa Bay area.

“It’s a good time for a graduate to go out there, and salaries pretty much across the board are going up,” Tooke said.

As can be expected, some careers and majors are more sought after than others. According to the NACE salary survey, service employers project the biggest increase in college hiring. Manufacturers and government/nonprofit employers were also highlighted as industries that are seeking new graduates.

Tooke also said Florida’s growth should open up more jobs in the areas of engineering, finance and health care.

“Engineering is driven in part by improvements in the economy, and there are many financial service firms in the area. Florida continues to grow, and there will be lots of building, so lots of engineers are needed.

“Obviously, throughout Florida, healthcare is going to be big,” Tooke said. “Florida (has) an aging population, and the people here will need people coming in to care for them, so that will always be a strong market. There are also a lot of service sector jobs in the area; banking, insurance companies, nursing, physical therapy, and if you want to look nationwide, we need math and science teachers in our schools.”

Tooke said graduates in the liberal arts should perfect certain skills.

“There is a trend in the creative-type jobs – graphic design, marketing or advertising,” he said. “Liberal arts majors should possess great communications skills and critical thinking skills; they are just more and more in demand.”

The ability to communicate effectively was No. 1 on the list of required skills, according to the NACE survey.

Other qualities include honesty/integrity, teamwork skills, strong work ethic and analytical skills.

“I personally like it when during your education you pick up a little flexibility, such as becoming people-oriented,” Tooke said. “A lot of it just depends on how you market yourself, how you take that next step when you graduate.”

Career Center director Drema Howard agrees that employers are “looking at the overall package” and that students are hired for potential more than the content of their education.

Tooke said students who participate in internship programs are far more likely to find jobs after graduation.

“It makes them more competitive for that first professional job,” Tooke said. “It just depends on the student’s particular situation: Sometimes you’ll get an internship opportunity that you might sacrifice the earnings to make you more competitive for the job after that; or you can use it to get your foot in the door and make a good impression on that particular organization so that they will hire you.”

Tooke said it is not too late for those students graduating in the next few weeks to find internships or even jobs.

“Students shouldn’t panic. The job market is having a great year, so there are plenty of opportunities out there,” Tooke said.

According to Tooke, college graduates are landing jobs at around two to three months after graduation, a process that has previously taken six months on average to complete.

Both Tooke and Howard encourage students to attend the statewide job fair on May 11 at the University of Central Florida, which is open to students graduating from all of Florida’s public universities. More information on the fair can be found on the career center Web site

For the graduating class of 2006, Tooke said it might be a good idea to enter the work force and then come back to school to pursue a graduate degree.

“Now with the job market they’re saying, ‘Break from studies, let’s go work a while and come back and do grad school later on,'” Tooke said. “I think in terms of skill sets and demands of what employers are looking at, it is more of the same year after year with expectations of graduates coming out of school, and they need computer skills and communication skills.”

Students who are not at the cap-and-gown stage of their academic careers can still take an active part in planning their careers. The Career Center offers a variety of services to students that range from assessment tests with self evaluations of abilities, activities and preferences, to on-campus job interviews and online job postings solely for USF students.

The online service offered by the Career Center called Career Connections operates much like other job sites, such as and When using it, students can search for jobs offered to USF students.

There are 11,281 available jobs posted on the Career Center site for students to upload their resumes and send to employers.