Nearly 7,400 flood Career Showcase looking for jobs


Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 5:45 p.m.

University of Florida undergraduate Meghan King is trying to build the kind of resume that stands out among a crowded field of job seekers.

King, 19, is majoring in both mathematics and statistics and minoring in computer science. She attended both days of this week's Career Showcase at UF to line up internships that improve her job prospects once she graduates.

"It's part of the world today. You have to be ruthless" in pursuing work, she said.

The issue of college graduates having difficulty finding jobs has received national attention, getting a mention in this week's presidential debate. A study in May by the Economic Policy Institute found that nearly 30 percent of young grads were unemployed or underemployed in the previous year, a modest improvement since the peak of those rates in 2010.

The demand for jobs could be seen at the Career Showcase, where UF students in business attire waited in long lines to present their resumes to potential employers. Around 7,400 students came to UF's O'Connell Center during the two-day showcase, the highest attendance on record for the event.

The showcase attracted 316 employers, an 11 percent increase from last fall. The number of employers has been rising at a similar rate over the past two years, indicating an improving job market, said Heather White, director of the UF Career Resources Center.

"It is a challenging economy, but I think the story for Gators is so much more hopeful," she said.

The center sponsors the showcase and provided other career services. For the first time this year, it surveyed graduates about job prospects. The survey comes as Gov. Rick Scott has pushed state universities to concentrate on guiding students to available jobs.

"The governor has called our attention to something that we took for granted," UF President Bernie Machen said. "If you graduate from UF, we figure that the world is your oyster."

The survey is part of UF's effort to help graduates even after they leave, Machen said.

"We're taking a much more long-term view of our relationship with our graduates," he said.

The survey found that about 60 percent of UF graduates this spring were seeking full- or part-time jobs, with the remainder looking at options such as graduate school.

Nearly 44 percent of those seeking work either had a job or were contemplating offers.

White said the figure was likely low because of the timing of the survey, which students received about a month before graduation. She said she also expects the survey's 50 percent response rate to improve now that completing it is tied to graduates getting transcripts.

The Career Showcase's first day focused on non-technical fields such as education and sales, while the second day featured technical fields such as computer science and information systems. Some employers on the second day said they wanted to hire students in the so-called STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"We probably prefer to hire STEM majors but also hire other people if they're bright and capable and have the right leadership skills," said Kathie Miller, a senior vice president for Nielson, a global information and measurement company.

There are more jobs for engineers than graduates to fill them, said Leland Parker, southeast district manager for the Lee Company, which develops miniature aerospace components.

"The supply certainly doesn't seem to be keeping up with the demand," he said.

UF undergraduate Sean Douglas, an industrial and systems engineering major, said finding jobs at the showcase can be difficult unless students first contact employers beforehand. Douglas, 21, said he's arranging internships and making contacts.

"My prospects look pretty good, but I know that's not typical," he said.

Brett Lau, a 21-year-old mechanical and aerospace engineering major, said he found more job options than his girlfriend did looking for public relations positions on the event's first day.

King found the second day more intense, saying she's open to jobs in any industry.

"I want to be diverse on what I want to do and what I'm able to do … I think it allows me to have more opportunities," she said.

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

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