New research from NACE forecasts the 2017 job market for new college graduates
The graduate jobs market continues to evolve with considerable change expected within the range of jobs, and skills in demand in 2017. Making sense of this turbulent landscape can often be difficult; but fortunately, help is at hand in the form of the annual Job Outlook 2017 report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
According to NACE's findings, the coming year will likely witness a flat rate of new graduate hiring among many US businesses. According to the survey, there was a slight drop in employers anticipating hiring more new college graduates in 2017, than there was a year ago: 36 percent to the previous 40 percent. This is the fourth consecutive year in this trend, and annual growth forecasts in new graduate hiring are just 5.8 percent, falling considerably short of the 11 percent growth, forecast in 2016. At the same time however, over 90% of respondents view the graduate job market across the US as “good” to “excellent”.
The Increasing Role of Technology in Recruitment
Employers continue to hold a preference for hiring during the fall over the spring, with the percentage of college recruiting forecast for fall 2017, to reach an all-time high of approximately 75 percent of total activity this year.
However, there have been very clear changes over recent years in the methods of recruitment employers are using. More than half of all respondents in the report indicated that they plan to focus more closely on utilizing social networks as a key recruitment tool in 2017. Although not included in this report, NACE also added that the increasing use of video interviewing by employers was reported in NACE’s survey on 2016 Recruiting Benchmarks. It may be a contributing factor to the finding that one-third of employers plan on attending fewer career fairs in 2017, saving money and time by going virtual.
Numerous studies document the increase in social media usage as a way of recruiting candidates, as well as job seekers using it as part of their job search. Job seekers are increasingly expected to be tech savvy and able to make use of the latest technologies to further their career aspirations and land the best jobs. Along with the benefits of technology and global communication, there can also be some drawbacks. The accessibility of social media and many websites can create additional barriers for some individuals with disabilities.
PEAT conducted research into the effects of this, gathering data from individuals with disabilities on their experiences of applying for a job online. The report revealed many major difficulties around the use of digital technology, preventing individuals with disabilities from gaining employment. The importance of digital accessibility is gradually being recognized as a basic right, which the majority of the population rely on to access everyday information and services. The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, recently called on Congress to establish a ‘Technology Bill of Rights’ for Americans with Disabilities.
Skills for a Competitive Candidate Driven Market
In terms of those areas of the country most likely to witness an increase in hiring this year, NACE forecasts growth in all four regions of the US - Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West. While more than 30 percent of all survey respondents in each region stated they plan to increase their levels of hiring this year, the Midwest reported the largest overall increase in hiring at 7.1 percent, and the West region predicts the lowest planned increase at 3.9 percent. Between 48 and 58 per cent of employers will be maintaining their current level of recruitment.
For job seekers keen to hone in on the top majors/degrees that employers will be on the lookout for in 2017, NACE suggests that 'business', 'engineering' and 'computer & information science' graduates will be strongest in demand. The results show a slight shift in focus from STEM disciplines towards business in the months ahead, with key majors including 'finance', 'accounting' and 'business management'. However, mechanical and electrical engineering majors will continue to gain considerable levels of interest from hiring managers in 2017.
Job seekers continue to face high levels of competition for the most sought after positions, and in a candidate driven market, ensuring a strong GPA is essential for success. Indeed, NACE's findings show that 70 percent of employers will be screening Class of 2017 graduates by GPA, when determining their suitability for interview/consideration for a role. Moreover, 60 percent of respondents stated their cut-off GPA will be 3.0.
Graduates should also be aware of the most sought after skills in the coming year. The ability to work as part of a team and to demonstrate strong problem-solving skills, is high on the list. This marks a considerable shift in employer attitudes over the last 12 months; the 2016 Job Outlook report highlighted leadership as the most in-demand quality of candidates. However, this year leadership qualities fall to fifth on the list, eclipsed by the aforementioned teamwork and problem solving skills, as well as excellent written communication skills and demonstrating a strong work ethic.
More Employers Offering Graduate Incentives
Employers will also be on the lookout for candidates who demonstrate relevant work experience when applying for roles. Almost two-thirds of 2017 employers will show increased favor towards graduates with this experience in place, especially when it has been gained through either an internship or co-op.
Finally, graduate job seekers may be pleased to learn that an array of industries are hoping to attract the best and brightest during the coming months through an increase in the base levels of remuneration on offer for new graduate starters. More than half (51.6 percent) of respondents nationwide stated their intent to increase the basic starting salary for bachelor's degree graduates in 2017, with 'miscellaneous manufacturing', 'food & beverage manufacturing' and 'pharmaceutical (chemical) manufacturing' industries top of the list for those committed to doing so. Furthermore, the percentage of US employers that plan to offer a starting bonus to graduates has peaked at its highest level in the last five years! Overall, more than 55 percent of respondents to the report revealed their intent to offer bonuses of this type to graduates of the Class of 2017.
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