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Job prospects looking better for 2013 graduates

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Students who graduate from college this year will have a better chance of finding employment than 2012 graduates.

That's according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2013 survey, released in September. The pharmaceutical manufacturing, computer and electronics manufacturing, retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, management consulting and professional services industries are anticipating double-digit increases in hiring, according to the survey.

Overall, NACE found employers are expected to hire 13 percent more college graduates this year than last. Hannah Johnson, who oversees the University of Charleston's Center for Career Development, said she thinks an upswing in the economy has helped lead to the increase in hiring.

"I think we're seeing an uptick in hiring," she said. "I think it's been kind of on a downturn for the past few years, but we are seeing some optimism from the employers who have been recruiting our students and nationwide. I think employers are starting to come out of the hiring rut and they're starting to open up and hire more entry level positions."

Johnson said she's seeing her students recruited into the marketing, accounting, communications, finance and management sectors.

"Employers are searching for graduates who have strong critical thinking skills, communication skills, are adaptable and trainable," she said.

However, not everyone shares the same optimistic outlook. West Liberty University's Institute for Innovation in Education on Feb. 18 released its annual West Virginia Jobs and Education Report. Despite "high unemployment that persists both statewide and across the nation has been signaling a worsening in the labor markets." But, according to the study's executive summary, some sectors are expected to see growth.

The report uses numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor and WorkForce West Virginia, and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission provided data of degrees conferred for higher education institutions in the state between 2007-2102. The report includes occupations that require four-year, two-year and graduate degrees. It includes data from private and public universities and community colleges.

One limitation of the study, according to the summary, is the lack of employment data on West Virginia graduates. The percentage of graduates employed out-of-state and in-state are not known. To compensate for the lack of information, the 2011 college-going rate and 2012 fall headcount enrollment rate were used. Using those figures, it is estimated that 30 percent of graduates leave the state to find work while 5.5 percent return after graduation.

Colleges and universities across the state have staff dedicated to career development. At UC, an entire week in March is devoted to career development. Students there can attend workshops on resume writing, networking and interviewing, among others. A spring career fair is scheduled for March 27.

Marshall University offers career-oriented webinars, an etiquette dinner for juniors and seniors, as well as a spring career fair in April. Students also may find jobs using the Marshall JobTraxx online database. Up in Morgantown, West Virginia University offers seminars and panels and uses social media to alert students to internship or job opportunities.

Johnson said all of these things are important and can help students learn how to market themselves.

"As far as advice for students, I would tell them to go ahead and start looking (for jobs) as early as possible," Johnson said. "Really research the companies they think they might be interested in applying for, make sure the resumes are spotless and they can really discuss their accomplishment they've had thus far. I would encourage students who are not graduating this year to obtain internships and really get experience in their fields. They're going to be competing with thousands of other college graduates, so what will make them stand out? They have to know what will make them more marketable than the other students."