By Katie Thomas, Project Associate
Across the country thousands of recent college graduates are gearing up to enter the labor market. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that at the end of February, there were roughly 5.4 million job openings, and a new survey from CareerBuilder recently reported that 67 percent of employers plan to hire recent college graduates. This year’s college hiring outlook is the highest it’s been since 2007. Further, 37 percent of employers reported that they plan to offer graduates higher starting pay than the previous year, a sign of the growing competition for talent. The most in-demand graduates include those from Business, Computer and Information Sciences, and Engineering programs, with 76 percent of employers surveyed citing them as the most sought-after at their firms.
In East-Central Wisconsin, the Fox Cities Regional Partnership has taken an innovative approach to ensuring that the region’s employers have the talented employee base they need to grow and prosper in the Fox Cities region. In 2015, the partnership, a division of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, launched the Talent Upload program to connect college students with local employers. After a series of business retention and expansion visits with local employers, entry-level IT and engineering talent were identified as workforce gaps. In response, the program is offered to computer science, IT, and engineering students and provides a three-day, all-expenses paid trip to students at select universities to visit the Fox Cities region. Understanding the importance of quality of life, the program aims to familiarize students with the community and showcase its offerings as a place to live for young professionals. Additionally, it connects soon-to-be graduates with local employers and engages them early-on with the goal of retaining those students once they graduate.
In South Dakota, the unemployment rate has been less than four percent since 2012, and in April 2016, the state had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5 percent. In response to a tight labor market and a shortage of talent, the Build Dakota Scholarship Fund was launched. The program provides full-ride scholarships in high-need career areas at the state’s technical institutions. In exchange, scholarship recipients commit to working full-time in their field of study in South Dakota for a minimum of three years following graduation. In the first five years, 300 scholarships are projected to be awarded annually. The goal of the program is to grow the state’s workforce and alleviate some of the workforce shortages in order to support economic growth in key industries. Additionally, the hope is that after spending five years working and living in South Dakota, retaining those workers will be easier.
As our founder and CEO, J. Mac Holladay, highlighted last month, the availability of talent, quality of place, and quality of life are the new top site selection factors. Given the growing trend of millennials choosing a place to live before finding a job, quality of life and place factors ultimately can have a large impact on the region’s economic opportunities, as we continue to see more and more examples of companies following the talent. As such, communities across the country are stepping up and implementing a variety of new and innovative strategies to compete for talent, increase their region’s educational attainment rate, and ensure that there is a sufficient supply of talent for employers. In addition to quality of life and place improvements, new efforts are needed to develop – and retain – the existing residents, as well as attract and import new talent to the region. Even when the quality of life aspects are in place, regions like the Fox Cities are going the extra mile to expose young professions to the type of life they can enjoy if they choose to live there. As the economy continues to recover, there will continue to be more competition for talent, and therefore, it will be even more necessary to ensure that there is the type of environment that people want to live and work in, and one that has the talent and workforce to support job creation and economic prosperity.