In a time when many businesses are being forced to lay off large percentages of their workforce, companies large and small continue to attend campus job fairs, whether they are looking for eager interns or are actually in the position to hire promising young talent.
Officials from three prominent engineering schools say, despite the economic downturn, many companies recruit on their campuses in the spring, fall and winter.
Charity Mouck, associate director of Career Services and Employer Relations at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, says the school held its largest career fair ever in the fall, despite "rumblings of economic concern." Located in Terre Haute, IN, Rose-Hulman is a four-year, private, non-sectarian college of engineering, science and mathematics. It was founded in 1874 as Rose Polytechnic Institute and was renamed the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 1971.
"More than 200 companies were on campus," Mouck says. Companies include Alcoa, BMW Mfg. Co., Boston Scientific, Caterpillar Inc., Delphi, The Dow Chemical Co., Frito-Lay, Honeywell, Ingersoll Rand, Microsoft, Medtronic and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
About 56 percent of Rose-Hulman's Class of 2009 has either accepted a job, has an offer on the table or has decided to join the military, according to Mouck, and about 95 percent of the Class of 2008 had a job when they graduated. "We just came off of an incredible last couple of years in terms of recruiting," she says.
Tim Luzader, director of the Center for Career Opportunities at Purdue University's College of Engineering, says many companies coming to his Indiana campus are being cautious and are taking a "wait-and-see" approach when talking to students, but are still visible during career events. Many are looking to take on interns in hopes of hiring them full-time when the economy stabilizes, he says.
"They still need to maintain availability on campuses. They need to make sure the brand of their company continues to be seen on campus," he says. "We are still getting companies representing a variety of industries. We haven't seen any one industry disappear."
Luzader says smaller companies usually don't have as much success on campuses than large companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Intel and IBM, but they may be able to leverage themselves and compete for top talent given the economy, since there are fewer jobs out there.
According to Lockheed Martin, the company actively recruits at more than 80 colleges and universities throughout the year, including Rose-Hulman and Purdue.
Sandra Beckett, Raytheon's university programs manager, says the company has not seen a decline in its campus recruiting activity.
"This past fall was pretty much like any other season. Our focus is engineering and for the fall we are primarily looking to fill full-time positions first and both co-ops and interns, as well," she says. "It's still a good time to be an engineer, in my opinion."
Beverley Principal, assistant director of Stanford University's Career Development Center, says there are still "big players" coming to campus, such as Cisco, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.
"What we are seeing is people ramping up their internship programs," she says.
According to Beckett, Raytheon hires on average between 1,000 and 1,100 students across all disciplines each year, but the top needs across the company are in the electrical, computer science and mechanical fields. She says there was a slight decline in the number of people hired this year - about 900 across the board.
"It's not a huge drop. We don't want to find ourselves overstaffing or having to pull back offers to anyone," she says. "We definitely are still recruiting, but we are being more judicious in our selections and in the numbers that we hire. Our campus program really continues to be a really important focus across the company.Mouck says very few offers made to Rose-Hulman students have been rescinded. "I think we've seen most of the pullback at this point," she says. "The jobs that are being offered now ... I think the students and the companies are feeling confident in those decisions. Of course, things could change at any time."