By PATRICK LYONS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Midwest employers plan to hire more recent college graduates, but at a lesser rate than the national average, experts say.
Employers in the eastern Midwest — Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana — want 6 percent more new graduates than they did last year, according to the Midwest Colleges and Employers Association Regional Report on College Hiring 2011-2012.
That’s less than the 10.2 percent increase expected nationwide, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Midwest report, by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, said hiring of those with a bachelor’s degree will rise by 9 percent in the eastern Midwest.
“We have begun to see an improvement in hiring, particularly in the east side of the Great Lakes,” said Phil Gardner, director of the institute. “They had the biggest deficit and we have seen some significant growth, but we have a long way to go.”
The rise comes from both small and large employers, while hiring at mid-size companies remains stagnant, according to the report.
Gardner said mid-size companies are struggling because often they are the second- and third-tier suppliers for larger companies and have been down for a long time, so there’s a lag in their recovery. However he said that high-end mid-size companies involved in engineering design and computer sciences are starting to hire again.
Gardner said that the rebound of the auto industry in Michigan benefits hiring as well.
“The auto companies have been down for so long that they really need to restock some talent, so they are back out looking,” he said.
The Michigan Collegiate Job Fair in Livonia saw an increase in the number of recruiters attending. In March, 140 participated, 20 more than a year ago, said Ebony Jones, senior corporate relations manager for the fair.
Even so, attendance is still not back to its peak from before the recession, said Sarah Kersey Otto, director of career development and outreach at Eastern Michigan University.
She said prior to the recession, the fair attracted more than 175 employers and turned some away due to limited space.
According to the institute report, 25 percent of Midwest employers aren’t recruiting students with specific majors but are broadening their search to all majors.
Otto said, “More and more employers are looking at a variety of majors for the soft skills. Does the person have good communication skills, good writing skills and the ability to work in a team? That’s because the employer can train for the more specific skills they need for a particular job.”
She said that when a recession hits, parents and students often choose majors that they believe will lead to jobs and shy away from liberal arts. However, a growing number of employers want liberal arts majors “because those students have good writing skills, good oral communication skills and the ability to organize their thoughts and move things forward,” Otto said.
Otto said she’s also seen more opportunities for engineering, health care and general business majors.
But she said fewer employers from the education and law enforcement fields are hiring, due to budget cuts.
The institute report shows that employers in the education sector plan to hire 21 percent fewer recent graduates than last year, while the government sector plans to hire 9 percent fewer. The construction sector shows the largest drop, 35 percent, compared to a year earlier.