Finding graduates a place
Local schools work to maintain, improve job placement rates
By Lucretia Cardenas | Fort Wayne Business Weekly
College students, many with hopes to soon land a promising career, are back in the classrooms, hitting the books.
The unemployment rate nationally is under 5 percent and locally it’s at about 4 percent. Rates are even lower for college graduates compared with those who did not complete degrees.
This sounds encouraging, until college seniors read reports such as one published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2014 that states more than 40 percent of recent college graduates, aged 22 to 27, are underemployed – meaning they are working in jobs that don’t even require a college degree.
But several local colleges say their graduates are bucking the trend. And, for the schools that aren’t yet, they say they are moving in that direction.
More emphasis is being placed on the career services departments at local schools; greater emphasis is being placed on following graduates and collecting data on their success; and administrators are incorporating local and national data to develop degrees and programs that assist students in finding areas of studies that fit their interests and the job market’s needs.
With a 98-percent placement rate for all graduates and a 100-percent placement rate for master’s-degree recipients in 2015, Manchester University has a solid reputation when it comes to graduate employment.
The current rates are up from the school’s 95-percent, 10-year success rate, which, compared to other schools, remains impressive.
“Most of our graduates have jobs or are enrolled in graduate school within six months of commencement,” Tish Kalita, Manchester’s director of career and professional development, said in an email. “We have such a strong reputation in accounting, for example, and it’s not uncommon for our accounting majors to receive job offers up to a year before they graduate.”
In addition to finding employment in their areas of study, 33 percent of Manchester graduates said they are fulfilled by the work that they do, which is higher than the state and national averages of 26 percent, according to the Gallup-Indiana Graduate Satisfaction Survey, published in June.
The study also found that 85 percent of Manchester graduates agree that the education was worth the cost.
Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne saw similar results from the Gallup survey, despite its job placement rate being lower than that of Manchester’s.
Eighty-four percent of IPFW graduates said their education was worth the cost and 32 percent of graduates surveyed said they are fulfilled by the work they do.
The public school’s placement rate for graduate students is similar to national averages, with about 18 percent of recent graduates actively searching in 2015. However, 84 percent of the class of 2016 is already employed, continuing education, serving in the military, volunteering or not seeking employment. The data is based on a 68-percent response rate.
In addition, 84 percent of the employed 2016 graduates responding to the survey reported they found jobs related to their degree programs. The main industries hiring these recent IPFW graduates were: health care (19.2 percent), education (11.1 percent), engineering (8.7 percent), retail (8.6 percent) and manufacturing (8.1 percent).
Many of these graduates – 89 percent of employed class 2016 respondents - remain in northeast Indiana.
Career development is something Trine University is dedicated to, working with nearly every student to ensure the degree matches future expectations, university spokesman James Tew said in an email.
Overall, within six months of graduating, 93.5 percent of the class of 2015 had found employment or were in graduate school programs related to their majors.
That constitutes the majority of the 98.8 percent of 2015 graduates who either found employment or were enrolled in graduate studies within six months of graduation.
“Ultimately, the role of the university is to meet the educational needs of its constituencies (local, regional, national and global).” Tew said. “Data is used by the university to make sure we are satisfying those needs and that there is a student interest in a particular program.
“For instance, we have a strong metallurgy department because of the large steel mill presence in the Midwest. We started a physical therapy program because northeast Indiana told us there was a shortage in that area.”
Forty percent of Trine’s 2015 grads found employment in northeast Indiana, with more than half of them finding employment in the state.
University of Saint Francis
Using data and following trends to match student interests with real world needs, is a tactic the University of Saint Francis employed to achieve a 94-percent placement rate within six months of graduation for its 2015 class, said spokeswoman Trois Hart. The survey was based on a 93-percent response rate.
For example, the development of the school’s music technology program was a result of the university looking at employment trends nationally and matching those with the school’s existing expertise and strengths, she said. The school’s health care program has seen great success among its graduates due to the university taking that approach to its degree offerings.
In addition, USF has an active internship program in which it tries to engage all of its students in project-based learning, Hart said. The experiential learning environments allow students to truly understand what to expect in the workplace and provide hands-on knowledge.
While matching degrees with workforce needs is important, Goshen College also focuses on what a job does for a graduate, beyond income.
“When we asked recent graduates what was most important about their jobs, only 3 percent said ‘relates to my undergraduate major,’” Justin Heinzekehr, director of institutional research and assessment at Goshen College, said in an email. “ Sixty-six percent said ‘is work I find meaningful,’ and 62 percent said ‘allows me to continue to grow and learn. … For us, as a liberal arts institution, that tells me that we should think about successful academic outcomes in a broader sense than direct career placement, although that can certainly be an important measure, especially for programs that are geared toward specific careers.”
Goshen Collge’s class of 2015 had an employment rate of 95 percent within a year of graduation. This includes graduates in service and in graduate school. Seventy-eight percent of the graduates are in full-time positions, with 55 percent having received multiple job offers, he said.
Catering to adults, not necessarily recent high school graduates, is how Indiana Tech sets itself apart, said Cindy Verduce, director of Indiana Tech’s Career Center.
More than 80 percent of the students currently enrolled at Indiana Tech are working adults, many who are working full-time. The goal of most students is to finish a previously started degree or to “get to the next level,” Verduce said.
About 80 percent of its graduates, from all of its 17 locations, remain in Indiana after graduation. The school saw a 92 percent placement rate among its 2015 graduating class. Placement includes full-time, part-time, continuing education and planning to continue education. The school had a 48-percent response rate for the survey.
Ivy Tech also caters to full-time working students and puts an emphasis on internship or co-op opportunities for students.
For the 2014-15 graduating class, 74 percent of respondents reported having full-time or part-time work. The majority, 59 percent, were employed more than 30 hours a week, spokesman Andrew Welch said in an email.
Despite not everyone findng a job after graduation, more than 80 percent of respondents rated the education and training as “good” or “excellent.”
The survey of recent Ivy Tech graduates was statewide and had a response rate of 10 percent.