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April 10, 2005

Prospects up for college grads

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Rochester,NY,USA - Apr 10, 2005

Hiring climate is modest locally, growing around region and nation

Ben Rand
Staff writer

(April 10, 2005) — Lindsay Buchko keeps hearing about an upswing in the job market for college graduates. But she has yet to see it for herself.

The 24-year-old from suburban Chicago only recently began looking for ways to apply her soon-to-be-completed master's degree in applied statistics from Rochester Institute of Technology. Thus far, barely a nibble.

Buchko isn't worried — many of her classmates have landed jobs — but she knows her task will not be easy.

"While employers are saying that they are hiring, it is still a little bit difficult to get a job," says Buchko, a deaf student who got her undergraduate degree from RIT with the support of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. "It becomes a lot easier if you use networking through other people."

College career counselors say Buchko has it right: Job opportunities for students are more abundant this year than they have been recently, particularly for those who are focused and willing to work hard.

RIT, the University of Rochester and the State University College at Brockport are all reporting surging attendance at recent recruiting fairs. Not only that, but the employers who are showing up have real jobs to offer, not just a spot in their résumé banks.

"This is a good year. Students who go out and know what they want, why they want it and where they want to work are getting a good response," said Burt Nadler, assistant dean and director of UR's career center.

UR recently completed regional events in New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., that drew 150 different companies with more than 200 positions to fill, Nadler said. The jobs were in a range of fields, including advertising, public relations, law, financial services, nonprofits and more, Nadler said. That's in addition to UR's mainstay competencies in fields such as optics and microelectronics.

The picture may not be as robust locally, he said, but "we do sense that employers here are ready to hire, only in different ways."

Rather than graduates getting gobbled up by Eastman Kodak Co. or Xerox Corp., they are going to smaller companies in a variety of fields, Nadler said. "We feel good about what Rochester is sharing with us."

SUNY Brockport has the same sense about the hiring climate — modest locally, heating up regionally and nationally. The school recently hosted a record 70 employers at a hiring fair, ranging from ADT Security Services to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Paychex Inc. and UPS Corp., said Rob DiCarlo, assistant director in Brockport's Office of Career Services.

Particularly in demand: Brockport graduates in fields such as criminal justice. The Virginia Beach Police Department, for instance, has hired about 30 Brockport students in recent years as police officers, DiCarlo said. Overall, "I'm definitely seeing improvement."

RIT expected 85 employers to show at its spring hiring fair last week, up from 50 a year ago, said Manny Contomanolis, assistant vice president of cooperative and career services.

One of the hot areas: positions related to the government's expansion in areas such as anti-terrorism and homeland security. RIT is one of the nation's leading schools in high-tech fields such as computer science, remote sensing and others.

Allen Vaala, director of the center on employment at the National Technical Institute of the Deaf, also sees a pickup in hiring.

The number of NTID students placed in co-operative education programs has risen steadily, from 226 in 2001 to 254 last year, Vaala said.

"That's an indication that employers are using (co-ops) as a way of looking for top-notch students," Vaala said. "The more (co-ops) increase, the more the market for permanent employment is increasing."

Lindsay Buchko hopes Vaala is right. She's currently finishing a co-op assignment with IBM Corp. in East Fishkill, Dutchess County, and wants to land a full-time job there after graduating in May.

Buchko's goal is to take her undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and master's in statistics into a manufacturing setting.

"Some days, I am excited and focused about my job search because I feel confident that I will find something," Buchko said in an e-mail interview. "Other days, I am uncertain and hopeful, mainly because I wonder if being too flexible will not bring me to the right job."

Copyright 2005 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle