More employers, optimism at UF Career Showcase


University of Florida political science major Alyse Atkinson, 21, talks about a possible internship with Disney Worldwide Services Inc. recruiter Rebecca Whitmore during the UF Career Showcase at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on the UF campus Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.

A growing number of employers are seeking University of Florida graduates to fill job openings, but different degrees are experiencing varying success in the slowly recovering economy.

UF’s Career Showcase attracted 225 employers to the O’Connell Center today and Tuesday. The figure is more than 36 percent lower than the number of employers at the the job fair in the same semester in 2008, but represents the second straight increase since a low of 188 in 2010.



“All of the employers who are working with us are saying that they’re busy, they’re hiring again,” said Heather White, director of UF’s Career Resource Center.

But a recently released report found that landing a job can depend on a student’s degree. New graduates in architecture and the arts faced the highest unemployment rates, while those with education and health degrees had the best chance of finding work, according to the report by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce.

UF splits its career fair into two days, with Tuesday focusing on non-technical employers and today on technical ones. For some students at Tuesday’s event, finding work depended both on their degree and experience.

Claire Lovell, a graduating senior in public relations, said finance and engineering majors appeared to have the most opportunities. Sales jobs seemed to be the only ones available for marketing and public relations majors, she said. Lovell said she’s now considering unpaid internships or graduate school.

“It seems like (graduate school is) the only option for people our age,” she said. “But why spend the money when you don’t have that money yet and why spend the money if you’re not 100 percent sure that’s the field you want to work in?”

Misa Hoang, a graduating senior in health education, said she feels her past internship will help her land a full-time job. Part of her confidence is related to growing opportunities in the health field, but she said she felt that the type of degree isn’t that important aspect for those seeking specialized jobs.

“For me, having a degree just shows you’re trainable,” she said. “It’s how you market yourself to employers.”

The Georgetown University report, however, found that recent graduates with degrees such as engineering have significantly higher earnings than those in the humanities or the arts. Mechanical engineering graduates had average earnings of $58,000 and an 8.6 percent unemployment rate, rising to $100,000 and a 3.5 percent jobless rate for graduate degree holders.

David Hahn, chairman of UF’s mechanical and engineering department, said that he’s heard of some new graduates making more than $80,000. The job market is tougher than in the past, he said, but mechanical engineering majors are attractive to the high-tech companies that are hiring because they can work across disciplines.

“Not every graduate is coming out of our program with a job offer, but they’re doing well,” he said.

The Georgetown report, based on 2009 and 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, found architecture majors face some of the most difficult job prospects, with a nearly 14 percent unemployment rate for recent college graduates. UF architecture school director Martin Gold said that the data seems to be lagging behind current trends.

Two years ago, it was difficult for architects to find jobs, he said, a trend reflecting a lack of retail construction but also related to the housing downtown. But he said architecture firms are now starting to hire again.

The report comes as state officials are increasingly focusing on the degrees offered at state universities and whether they’re in fields where jobs are available. But employees of one company at the job fair and the event’s sponsor, freight shipping company R+L Carriers, said that the type of degree isn’t the biggest hiring factor for non-technical jobs such as sales.

Gary Ingram, sales director for the company’s Florida division, said he’s looking for someone who can represent the company well rather than at their degree.

“We’re also looking for the business leaders of the future, the people that understand how to make money,” he said.

White said she sees the steady increase in employers at the job fair as a sign of an improving economy. The spring semester fair had 353 employers in 2008, a number that fell in the subsequent two years and hit a low of 188 in 2010. It rose to 195 last year before increasing again this year.

“We’re getting closer and closer,” she said. “We’re not where we were pre-downturn but I think that we’re headed back there.”

Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or nathan.crabbe@gvillesun.com. For more stories on the University of Florida, visit www.thecampussun.com.

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