New group to collect SIU graduate employment data

While both presidential candidates have addressed college-graduate employment problems, President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney aren’t alone in the discussion.

“This is a huge issue throughout college career services all over the country right now as well as college institutions,” said Michelle Garrett, a recruitment coordinator at the Career Services Office.

Garrett said federal law will require universities to report specific, updated data on graduates’ employment statuses in the next few years. The Career Task Force, a new university organization that started this summer, will help accumulate the data and encourage feedback to enhance students and alumni career development, she said. The group was formed because past surveys did not render enough participation to give accurate results.

The Career Task Force consists of representatives from each college as well as other campus programs and departments.

Another task force goal is to develop protocol and policies for data collection and reports.

Garrett said the graduate employment numbers the university compiled in the past are not as comprehensive as they could be because not all graduates respond to surveys.

“The response rate has been dismal, so the numbers we collect do not hold any meaning,” Garrett said.

The problem with the survey is that it cannot be accomplished through one university program or unit. She said a collaborative effort needs to be made, and the Career Task Force should accomplish this obstacle.

“We want to educate students that we are not nosy, but we need to collect this information because it is so important we must comply with the new federal mandates as well as have the information for recruitment and current students in their field,” Garrett said.

Bonnie Ebelhar, the Career Task Force representative from Institutional Research and Studies, said the group is still in its infancy.

The last SIU graduate survey was published in 2011 and reported information on the 2009 graduating class, Ebelhar said. The data includes information on those with undergraduate and graduate degrees, and she said the survey was not comprehensive because it had a 31-percent response rate.

According to the 2011 survey, 67.64 percent of graduates worked full-time, 14.66 percent worked part-time, 11.5 percent were unemployed and seeking work, and 6.19 were unemployed and not seeking work.

The survey also showed 26.94 percent held their first professional job as students, 16.94 percent had a job upon graduation, 6.7 percent had a job less than one month after graduation and 13.39 percent had a job within three months. Between three and six months, 11.42 percent had a job, 8.52 percent had jobs between six and nine months and 15.83 percent had a job after nine months.

Garrett said it is most important for students to start the job search as early as possible.

“Employers recruit in the fall, so if a senior who is graduating in the spring starts looking for jobs in the spring, it’s a problem.” Garrett said.

Garrett also emphasized the importance of internships.

“About 58 percent of internships turn into full-time jobs,” Garrett said.

Clare Mitchell, assistant dean for Mass Communication and Media Arts, said internships are very valuable for students.

“Introducing freshmen to internship possibilities is very important because it can make a resume seem that much better,” Mitchell said.

Garrett said Career Services sets up career fairs frequently, and the University College 101 course also emphasizes students’ career skills.

“SIU’s career services is not unique in its goal, but tries to adapt to its students’ demographic as well as employers’ needs,” Garrett said.

She said a few employers have said SIU students have lacked preparation as well as appropriate workplace mannerisms in the past.

“In the last career fair we had, we did not allow students in unless they were dressed professionally, and we received better feedback overall from the employers,” Garrett said.

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