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Grads Face Uncertain Job Market

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

Viral Dave and Sam Desai thought their futures were certain. They are about tograduate from North Carolina Statewith degrees in electrical engineering. Both accepted lucrative jobs with high-techcompanies last fall.

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

Now Dave and Desai have learned the jobs they accepted might not be there whenthey 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 playgames," 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 besure. 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 allover the business pages. But someResearch Triangle companies say they are still planning for the future by bringingnew graduates on board.

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

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

Forty-five percent of employers polled lowered their hiring projections between August 2000 and March 2001, accordingto the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But overall, companies stillplan 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 engineeringfields. 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 areconfident 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 politicalscience and psychology majorsare up 8 percent over last year. The average is about $32,000.

 Credits

Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julian King, Web Editor

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