Local News

Grads Face Uncertain Job Market

Posted May 14, 2001 8:54 a.m. EDT

— A few months ago, high-tech companies were competing ferociously for the best and brightest young graduates. Now, some companies are pulling back job offers and leaving students in limbo.

Viral Dave and Sam Desai thought their futures were certain. They are about to graduate from North Carolina State with degrees in electrical engineering. Both accepted lucrative jobs with high-tech companies last fall.

"Companies were kind of after us," Desai says. "They were trying to recruit us instead of us trying to sell ourselves. I've had offers as high as six-figure salaries."

Now Dave and Desai have learned the jobs they accepted might not be there when they graduate.

"It's kind of a shaky position. We don't know if we're going to work in August or if we're going to sit home and play games," Desai says.

"I was supposed to start in a month, but now I have to wait until January and even then we're not going to be sure. If the economy picks up, we'll have a job. If not, what do we do?" Dave asks.

Stories about corporate layoffs and profit losses at high-tech companies are all over the business pages. But some Research Triangle companies say they are still planning for the future by bringing new graduates on board.

IBM headhunters like Julie Ann Weiss are recruiting heavily, despite the turbulence in the high-tech sector.

"We're looking at onboarding almost 4,000 university hires over the next couple of months. So quite frankly, we've been really successful," Weiss says.

Forty-five percent of employers polled lowered their hiring projections between August 2000 and March 2001, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But overall, companies still plan to hire 18 percent more college graduates this year than they did in 2000.

Starting salaries also continue to climb, with the largest increases in the engineering fields. Electrical engineering graduates now average $52,000 right out of college, an increase of 10 percent over last year. That is reassuring to graduates like Dave and Desai, who are confident their degrees will pay off eventually.

"It's a good degree, so as soon as the market picks up, we're going to be back in business," Desai says.

Starting salaries have also increased for liberal arts majors. Salaries for political science and psychology majors are up 8 percent over last year. The average is about $32,000.