College works: Employers say they plan to rev up hiring of 2022 graduates

NACE survey shows massive interest in young workers and a willingness to let them work remotely.

College and university admissions teams looking to project their value to future students have another positive data point to offer in the recruitment process. This year, employers said they will be hiring 31% more graduates from the Class of 2022 than they did from the Class of 2021.

That number might seem insignificant given that many businesses in 2021 were still trying to recover from the initial hits of the COVID-19 pandemic. But if it holds, it would represent the highest percentage increase of any period in a decade and twice as much as any other year except 2019, when fall hirings rose 16.6%. Those data are from a new report released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which conducted its second survey of the academic year with nearly 200 employers, most of which were connected directly to NACE.

“Fueling this surge is the fact that we’re seeing hiring increases across a variety of industries,” said Shawn VanDerziel,  executive director of NACE, which noted that many companies plan to boost the number of hires by 100% or more, led by gas and oil extraction firms. The U.S. Department of Labor recently reported that there were 11.3 million job openings in April after consecutive months during which more than four million workers resigned or moved into new positions. Companies in many fields, especially healthcare and cybersecurity, are eager to hire.

Employers surveyed said they envision a vastly different workplace for new hires than in past years, fueled by pandemic isolation and the rise in new technology. Many graduates from 2022 will be given the opportunity to work in ways that appeal to them, especially the potential to be remote employees in some capacity. While 42% of business leaders told NACE they will expect their entry-level workers to show up in person every day (a Slack survey showed just 12% of employees prefer that mode), 40% said they only need them in the office a couple of days per week. The other 18% would be remote all the time. That closely follows a trend line projected by Upwork that showed during a recent study that remote work would hit 22% by 2025. Just two years ago, the number of fully remote workers was 3%.

“Many are giving their employees and new hires the best of both worlds,” VanDerziel said. “While it may be too early to proclaim the shift to the blended approach to work is here to stay, the hybrid modality does provide a level of flexibility that is appealing to many employees, seasoned as well as new hires. This, coupled with the fact that employers have been able to vet their employees’ ability to operate remotely during the pandemic, suggests the hybrid modality could well be the new normal.”

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In an early 2021 survey, Price Waterhouse Coopers showed that more than 80% of employers found success with employees working remotely, although their preference would be for a hybrid environment. Whether realizing it or not, colleges and universities that pivoted to online learning and video enhanced the qualifications of students in the new world of work while providing them with significant benefits. Those who are allowed to work remotely could save several hours per week in lost work and thousands of dollars in commuting costs, according to several national studies. In turn, companies also have seen increases in productivity, cost savings, and, most notably, fewer resignations from remote employees.

The types of skills that employers are looking for—and expecting higher education to help foster—are changing too. NACE said problem-solving, analytical and teamwork skills are front of mind for employers who are also far less focused on oral communication than on written communication. “Perhaps this is happening, in part, because of the growing prevalence of electronic communication and the increasing infrequency of in-person, face-to-face interactions in our current virtual environment,” VanDerziel said.

Some proficiencies where students aren’t quite hitting the mark, according to employers, are career development, critical thinking and professionalism. But they are absolutely beating expectations in terms of their embrace of technology.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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