Graduate prospects trending upward

Graduate surveys evaluating employment or placement into graduate programs from the classes of 2013 and 2014, as well as an increase in companies presenting at career fairs around northwest Pennsylvania, show hopeful signs for undergraduate students.

The fields of study boasting the highest placement rates for the class of 2014 include Criminal Justice, Biology and Psychology, all showing placement rates of 100 percent. Majors such as Hospitality Management, Early Childhood and Special Education and Intelligence Studies show placement rates of between 95 and 87 percent, respectively. Surveys from the class of 2013 show similar numbers for Criminal Justice, Intelligence Studies and Hospitality Management.

“It’s fairly stable over the years,” said Director of Assessment Amy Danzer. “Some of the majors, they change the number of people who are enrolled over time and how many graduate over time, but it doesn’t change that quickly.”

New majors such as Public Health, take time to build up, Danzer said. New programs take time to become established and fine tune their curriculums and practices, in order to attract potential students to attend the university.

“I liken it to trying to hit a baseball for the first time. When you were a kid, you weren’t all that good, but you practice a bit and then you get much better at it. So you go and work out the kinks for the first couple of years, and then you have people who can go and talk about it more,” Danzer said.

In addition to a steady number of students who are able to find employment or continue their education, an upturn in the number of companies making appearances at career fairs at Mercyhurst, as well as Penn State Behrend, is a good sign for students, according to Frank Rizzone, Director of Career Services.

“The fact that the last couple of years at the career fair, attendance by companies has been down, and it’s starting to ease up, last year it was like 88 companies, and this year we had 103 registered to come. That’s telling me that things are improving,” Rizzone said.

Erie has been an area that experiences the effects of economic fluctuations more slowly than the rest of the nation, according to Rizzone.

“Historically, Erie has always been slower to feel the effects of any economic slowdown, and consequently, it’s also slower at showing signs of recovery once things are happening,” Rizzone said.

The numbers of companies which are looking to hire is increasing and unemployment has dropped since January 2014. Statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry show that unemployment has dropped from 6.3 percent to 5.1 percent between January 2014 and January 2015. Recruitment events in other areas of Pennsylvania are showing increased signs of companies looking for employees, Rizzone said.

“The WesPacs Job Fair, which is down in Monroeville, we belong to that consortium, their attendance from companies was way up. They were astounded by the numbers of companies showing up. So that’s telling me that it’s not just in Erie, but across Pennsylvania, that we’re starting to see some improvement,” Rizzone said.