News & Events

Employers Set UI Job Fair Record

In a sign that experts say points to a growing economy, a record number of employers plan to participate this week in the annual spring job fair at the University of Iowa.

About 154 employers—up from 130 last year—will be at the Iowa Memorial Union on Wednesday to visit with students and UI alumni, including some first-time visitors such as Marsh and McLennan, Aon, and CIGNA Corp. There will be so many employers, in fact, that UI is opening the second-floor ballroom at the IMU to accommodate the overflow.

"But we still ended up with a waiting list of at least a half-dozen companies we couldn't get in," said Allan Boettger, director of career services at UI's Pomerantz Career Center.

The UI job fair hit an all-time low in 2008 when only 110 companies showed up, not even enough to fill the main floor in the IMU. This year, dozens of companies already are reserving space on campus to conduct an estimated 500 interviews after the fair, Boettger said.

"That's another good measure," he said.

Martin Gervais, an associate professor economics at UI, said he thinks the upswing in employer participation bodes well for those looking for jobs.

"I would say that it is hard to think of this rise in employers attending the jobs fair as bad news," he said. "If the number of employers attending the job fair is a good proxy for vacancies, then it is certainly good news for individuals looking for vacancies."

According to a recent report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, nearly all of the nation's 363 metropolitan areas are expected to see real economic growth in 2014, unlike last year when 97 metropolitan areas experienced declining economies. Iowa City is among the metro areas expected to see a rise of more than 2 percent in economic growth.

Boettger expects 1,200 to 1,800 students and alumni to attend this year's fair, where employers will be looking to fill full-time positions and internships. Several organizations, such as AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, also will be looking for volunteers.

Mila Brassart, a UI senior majoring in finance, will be joining General Electric's Financial Management Program after graduation this spring, thanks to an internship she landed with the company after hearing through—one of the many services provided by the Pomerantz Career Center—that GE would be on campus interviewing finance and accounting majors.

"I submitted my resume and application," she said. "From then on, the communications were independent of the university."

That's a common scenario for students looking for a job through employers who participate in job fairs on campus. Another scenario is to simply attend the fair and make connections in person.

Accounting and finance are hot job markets, Boettger said, but many companies prefer to hire employees with "well-rounded" liberal arts backgrounds, such as psychology or English majors.

"They are less concerned with exactly what you majored in but rather what you can do well, such as communicate and write," Boettger said.

Gervais said that nationally, there has been a mismatch in the number of jobs available and qualified employees to fill them. However, he doubts such a mismatch will be an issue at UI's job fair because employers should have a strong sense of the types of people who will be seeking employment.

"Mismatch seemed prominent over the last few years at the national level. I doubt it's a big issue at the job fair level," he said.

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