"THERE ARE many qualified entry-level professionals in the state, but there is a disconnect with how employers try to access these candidates," said Pat Blakemore, NEIT Director of Career Services Pat Blakemore.
On March 3, the New England Institute of Technology held a job fair with 75 employers. The event aimed to connect current students and alumni with job opportunities.
Director of Career Services Pat Blakemore, a 20-year veteran of New England Tech, spoke to PBN about the event.
PBN: How have the career expos at NEIT changed during the past five years. Has employer attendance picked up recently? How many/what kind of jobs are available to recent grads?
BLAKEMORE: The Career Expo is just one of NEIT’s annual recruiting events. Over the years, we have seen many new employers who attend the Career Expo for the first time and many who return year after year. This event allows employers to recruit for current and future openings and to network with our students and graduates.
The economy has been challenging throughout the past five years; however, we have had 60 or more employers attend the Career Expo, and in the last two years, that number has increased to more than 75. The employers who attend are seeking candidates with work-ready technical skills. I have seen more employers who are seeking students for internship or co-op opportunities. They really want to get the new talent in the door before they graduate. The employers like the enthusiasm and technical skills the students bring to their workplace.
PBN: Are they mostly Rhode Island employers or do they come from all over? How successful are these expos – both for the students and the employers.
BLAKEMORE: The employers represent both national and local companies and organizations. We have also had employers with an international presence in attendance. There is variety in the kind of company and business that attends, to include the US Government, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and startup firms. Our recruiting events have proven to be very successful for both students and employers. Many of our students are able to secure interviews after the events and many obtain job offers as a result of meeting the employers at the Expo. There is no replacement for a face-to-face connection that can be made at these events.
PBN: A lot of local tech employers complain about the lack of qualified, entry-level professionals there are in the state. Do you think that’s true? Where do most of NEIT’s students go once they graduate?
BLAKEMORE: I think there are many qualified entry-level professionals in the state, but there is a disconnect with how employers try to access these candidates. So many employers rely on job boards (Monster, Career Builder, Craigslist, etc.) requiring candidates to apply via online tracking systems. Many qualified candidates are missed or overlooked because of something they did or did not include on these online forms. Employers would be better served to contact college Career Services Offices for candidates.
Graduates of NEIT’s technical degree programs are highly sought after in today’s technical job market. Many of our graduates work for companies based in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
PBN: What is the most challenging aspect for a recent graduate to break into the workforce?
BLAKEMORE: It is very challenging to try to reach the decision maker when it comes to submitting resumes. Online ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) make it very difficult for candidates to communicate directly with the person in the position to arrange an interview. So many graduates tell me that they apply through the company website and then never hear back or there is no contact person they can follow up with. It can be a very frustrating process. The NEIT Career Services Office works hard to put our graduates’ resumes in front of the right people.
PBN: Beyond technical skills they learn in college, what soft skills do most employers look for and how can students learn them?
BLAKEMORE: The No. 1 soft skill that employers are seeking is the ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. They also want employees who have the ability to work as part of a team. Students at NEIT acquire these skills through their lab experiences and other coursework.