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Published in Talent

College graduates confront an evolving, in-demand labor market

BY Sunday, December 19, 2021 11:34am

College seniors graduating this winter or next spring can expect a stronger job market than last year as they seek to join the workforce. That’s according to the results of an annual recruiting survey by Michigan State University’s Employment Research Institute that found the hiring of graduates with a bachelor’s degree will grow 15 percent this year, and more than half of employers that are hiring will increase starting wages. Nearly half of employers plan to have new employees work onsite while 28 percent will use a hybrid model. Employment Research Institute Director Phil Gardner recently discussed the latest job market trends confronting new graduates.

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What’s your biggest finding in this year’s survey?

Phil Gardner COURTESY PHOTO

Particularly for associate and bachelor’s degrees, the outlook is very, very positive. There seems to be a lot of energy in recruiting at those levels. There seems to be a lot of need that’s coming from several factors. Last year, a lot of companies just had to hold back on their hiring. Either they didn’t hire at all or they reduced the number to accommodate how they were adjusting to COVID. What they did was push all of those requisitions they had forward to this year, and then you have retirements occurring probably to COVID a little faster than we might expect.

How’s the ‘Great Resignation’ affecting things?

The other thing is, of course, this big movement of employees at all different levels actually making decisions to leave their company and find new employment, or redirect what they want to do, that I think caught people unprepared. COVID caused a lot of people to think about what they were doing and want to make some changes.

How much of that shift is generational?

If you go back and look at younger people now that have reached their 40s, but even to the young people today, there has been a subtle shift going on about how they approach work, how they view work that differs strongly from Boomers. Boomers are all-consumed by work and identify themselves by the work they do, particularly Boomer men. They controlled the course of the workplace for so long and everybody had to follow suit. But the younger generation that is coming up didn’t identify as strongly with their work identifying who they were. It doesn’t mean they’re slackers or they don’t want to work. It means that they want to put a balance with other things in their lives, and we’ve seen this coming. It seems COVID really opened the spigot on this because we’re getting to the tail end of the Boomers. They’re leaving and the new folks taking their place in the workforce are looking at work differently.

How do you view the term ‘Great Resignation?’

That’s kind of sad. Once we label something like the ‘Great Resignation,’ it diverts our attention and our focus on the resignation, and employers get defensive and they want to plug that gap. ‘Is it higher wages? What is it that’s going to keep those people from moving?’ Rather than looking at this underlying value shift going on in work.

What should today’s college seniors expect when they head into the job market next year?

They have to expect several things. One is their mindset. They have to be more flexible and open minded. A lot of companies are rearranging and realigning work because of COVID and technologies faster than they can adjust their position descriptions. Sometimes young people come in with pretty fixed ideas on what they think they want in the technical fields, and that’s just changing so fast. They need to come in with a more open mind about the job requirements that they may initially get because they’re still in flux.

Do they need to adjust their expectations about remote work?

Be careful what you wish for in remote work. I’m an older worker. Working at home is not a problem. We’re disciplined and we know what we have to get done and things like that. But for young people, this data is just coming out. I’ve heard some of the published authors talk about their initial studies of people that just entered the workplace, and they’re lost because they got put in these remote jobs. They haven’t made contacts in companies, they haven’t built any organizational culture or mindset around the organizational culture, and they haven’t learned how the workplace works versus what they experienced in an internship and things like that. So they’re lost, they’re adrift.

Read 668 times Last modified on Friday, 17 December 2021 12:14
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