What a difference a year makes! Graduates in the class of 2005 may have more job opportunities to select from than their predecessors when they hit the job hunting trail next spring.

According to the 2005 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook survey, American employers plan to hire 13.1 percent more graduates this year than they did last year.

Students graduating with accounting, business administration, computer science, economics, engineering and finance degrees will be in especially high demand, survey findings concluded.

College campus recruiting also will increase, with more than 40 percent of surveyed employers planning to visit campuses this spring to hold job interviews.

This national trend appears to hold for Washington State University as well. While WSU cannot guarantee a 40 percent hike in employer visits or job offers, recruitment numbers are increasing, with 10 to 15 new employers coming to recruit each semester, said Virginia Tavera-Delgado, assistant director for Career Services.

High opportunity degree programs at WSU also follow national trends; however, employment in all fields continues to increase with the national average.

“More than 50 percent of employers come to recruit all majors,” Delgado said.

Tracking grads is tough
While hiring trends show strong results through employer surveys, tracking post-graduation employment activities to determine whether WSU graduates are landing jobs in step with national trends proves a greater difficulty.

Debbie J. Edwards, director of Career Services, said costs and time are the main factors contributing to the lack of post-graduate followup. Getting students to respond to surveys creates an obstacle as well.

Currently, students registered with Career Services receive an e-mail survey asking questions about job offers, interviews and the like. Surveys also are distributed during Graduation Salute at the Bookie; however, return rates on these methods are small and provide limited information, Edwards said.

“We try to get the best snapshot we can of each semester,” Edwards said. “Results are then posted to our website.”

Student Affairs conducts random sample post-graduation tracking surveys every other year, but receives only a 20 percent return rate.

Edwards said that while these tracking problems are not unique to WSU, academic and student service departments are working to re-evaluate and improve tracking methods.

“All of us would like to do better,” Edwards said.

National trends
Despite the university’s struggle to determine graduate hiring success, national statistics prove hiring is increasing. Survey results indicate:

• 70 percent of employers plan to raise starting salaries an average of 3.7 percent.
• 33 percent of employers plan to improve hiring practices, including plans to redetermine organizational hiring needs quarterly.
• More than 80 percent of respondents rated the job market for new college graduates as good, very good or excellent, compared to 38 percent last year.

The primary reasons for the increase in job openings, survey respondents said, are economic improvements, business growth, employee turnover, an aging workforce and company acquisitions and mergers.

The 2005 Job Outlook survey is a four-part survey, of which two parts were conducted in August and September. Nearly 25 percent of the 1,040 nationwide NACE member employers responded to the survey.

The final two survey updates will be conducted in December and April.