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January 30, 2013

Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities sees strong, increasing student recruitment into job market

Industrial Roundtable

Purdue University students meet with prospective employers this fall during the Industrial Roundtable on campus. The event, led by Purdue Engineering Student Council, drew a record 375 companies. (Purdue University file photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The good news for students is that hiring in the United States is gaining a little steam. The better news for Purdue students: Their university is a hotspot for corporate recruiters, particularly in the STEM areas.

So says Timothy Luzader, director of Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities. He sees the numbers and hears from employers.

"Every year, when we compare ourselves to peer institutions, we rank among the top as far as having the highest number of employers visit campus," Luzader says. "We've consistently been seeing this trend.

"Employers want to be efficient in their recruiting efforts. One way to do that is to focus on the core schools they visit, determined by where they feel they can have the best results. So, it's a very big deal to be a core school."

A survey of companies by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that employers expect to hire 13 percent more new college graduates nationally in 2013 than a year ago.

"In terms of the number of schools employers are visiting to recruit students, we're not seeing a tremendous increase but a very subtle one," NACE researcher Ed Koc said. "Employers have become more focused on certain places that produce graduates who fit their needs."

Over the course of an academic year, Purdue is the site for campus interviewing activities and numerous career fairs. Some 1,200-1,400 unique companies visit campus and meet with students seeking internships, co-ops or full employment. Two of the highest profile and most attended, both by employers and student job-seekers, are the Industrial Roundtable and Krannert School of Management careers fairs, put on each September and mid-winter by the Purdue Engineering Student Council and the School of Management Employers Forum.

Tony Denhart, region manager of university relations for General Electric, says Purdue is a prime recruiting area for the corporation.

"There are endless reasons why Purdue continues to be one of GE's top universities," he said. "The education Purdue provides is one of reasons that GE has historically hired more students from Purdue than any other university. The education, coupled with the soft skills, sets Purdue students apart. GE knows that the Purdue students will arrive at GE with the leadership, communication and critical thinking skills needed to compete in a global world."

Purdue's Industrial Roundtable is among the largest student-run career fairs in the nation. A record 375 companies attended this fall's event, offering opportunities in engineering, technology and science fields. Seventy-five company seminars were coordinated to provide additional information to students before the event.

"There was a lot of interest in hiring Purdue students - as demonstrated through 400 interview schedules for following days and companies donating more than $25,000 to a scholarship fund for engineers," said Trevor Dowd, head of the Purdue Engineering Student Council's Industrial Relations Committee.

The Krannert School of Management hosted 147 companies for its forum this fall, which equaled the participation in the 2008 fair and is an increase of about 15 percent over the previous couple of fall fairs. Fifty-five of those companies gave presentations either the day before or during the evening after the fair, and about 60 companies requested interview schedules.

"We had more than 120 interview schedules, with an estimated 600 interviews actually conducted," said Erik Props, associate director of undergraduate and alumni careers in the Krannert School.

Luzader says there are multiple reasons Purdue is fertile ground for employers.

"Employers feel that our students are well educated and possess a very strong work ethic," Luzader said. "Companies also consistently tell us that they're able to retain Purdue students at a higher than average rate after hiring them."

Luzader has seen a marked difference over the last three years. In 2009-10, when the U.S. recession had its greatest impact on the job market for new graduates, about 400 unique employers took part in campus interviewing through the Center for Career Opportunities, a period in which he saw fewer students recruited for jobs. This fall 933 unique employers visited campus to recruit students.

"This is certainly strong recruitment," he said. "We've had to be creative to find additional interviewing space for an overflow of recruiters during job fairs and other heavy campus recruitment periods. Some companies opted to choose different dates when interviewing space on campus was more readily available.

Statistics generated by the Center for Career Opportunities' postgraduate survey efforts identifies students still seeking and those accepting employment, accepted for further study or confirming other plans such as service in the Peace Corps, Teach for America or postgraduate fellowships. Specific employment data points to an upward trend for students. Of May 2009 graduates, 63.8 percent who participated in a survey reported that they had accepted employment within six months in an area that was relevant to them. The number jumped to 66.3 percent in 2011.

"That doesn't sound like big difference, but it's actually pretty significant - and we're anticipating another bump this year," Luzader said. "When we're in a very robust market, we see about 70 percent."

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

Sources: Timothy Luzader, 765-494-3981, tluzader@purdue.edu

Ed Koc, 800-544-5272 (Ext. 164), ekoc@naceweb.org

Tony Denhart, 317-574-8298, tony.denhart@ge.com

Trevor Dowd, tdowd@purdue.edu

Erik Props, 765-494-1688, props@purdue.edu