By Ed Brennen
It was hard to tell who was more excited to be back in person for UMass Lowell’s Spring Career Fair at the Tsongas Center: the 1,300 résumé-toting students and alumni eager to jump into the red-hot job market, or the 187 employers from 44 industries who can’t seem to hire people fast enough.
“It’s definitely a candidate’s market right now,” said Paul Crivello, vice president of human resources at advanced materials manufacturer 6K, a platinum sponsor of the spring fair. “There are way too many jobs and just not enough candidates.”
That’s good news for the Class of 2022 as it enters a workforce that’s been transformed during the pandemic — not just by layoffs and resignations, but also by new remote and hybrid work options.
The unemployment rate was down to 3.6% in March
(just one-tenth above the pre-pandemic level), and there were 11.3 million job openings
nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate was down to 2.0% for those 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree.
A recent job outlook report
by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, meanwhile, showed that companies plan to hire 26.6% more new graduates from the Class of 2022 than they did from the Class of 2021. Nearly 60% of employers polled said they plan to increase hiring this year, compared to just 16.5% in 2021.
“There’s certainly a feeling among my friends of not if I get a job, but when,” said David Quadros, a senior business administration
major from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. He was at the fair looking for a summer internship — preferably at a company where he could return after he gets an MBA from the Manning School of Business
“I was overwhelmed by how many companies were here when I walked in,” Quadros said from the bustling Tsongas concourse. “Once I got a lay of the land, I found a lot of people here willing to talk to you.”
One of the longest lines was at the Raytheon Technologies booth, where junior electrical engineering
major Danielle Le, a test engineer co-op this semester, was busy scanning résumés with an iPad.
“We really appreciate the great relationship we have with the university, which just continues to grow,” said Raytheon’s campus manager, electrical engineering alum Stephen Lichwala ’11. “We have a lot of retirements right now, so we’re looking to fill some spots.”
Lichwala said Raytheon is offering employees “quite an array” of work arrangements.
“Wherever there’s an opportunity to work from home or hybrid, we’re trying to do that and still make it meaningful,” he said. “Especially with younger employees, sometimes it’s better to build your network in person.”
While many industries, such as restaurants and travel, were hit hard by the pandemic, others thrived.
“The semiconductor industry is a great place to be right now,” said mechanical engineering
alum Nick Paolino ’17, a manufacturing engineering supervisor at Axcelis Technologies in Beverly, Massachusetts.
With supply chain disruptions causing a computer chip shortage, which was then compounded by increased consumer demand from people buying new electronics to use from home, Paolino said the company’s factory never slowed down.
“We have about 700 people working in Beverly, and we’re growing pretty fast,” said Paolino, who did two co-ops with Axcelis as a student after meeting them at the career fair.
ALKU, a specialized staffing firm that provides consulting services for technology, life science and health care IT companies, was looking for full-time hires and summer interns to keep up with booming demand.
“We were lucky that when COVID hit, the work didn’t slow down. We stayed busy, and we’re even busier now,” said Alana Madore ’18, senior personnel coordinator for ALKU’s pharmaceutical division and a business administration alum.
Since it’s a candidate’s market, employers are aware they have to offer more than just a good salary and benefits to compete.
“Companies have to provide a good working environment that puts employees first,” said 6K’s Crivello, who has noticed that students are also paying closer attention to an organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability — such as his company’s upcycling of lithium-ion batteries and its transformation of scrap materials into powder for 3D printing.
“It’s a whole new generation of students who are much more diverse, not only academically, but they’re looking for companies that want to do the right thing,” said Crivello, whose daughter Rebecca earned a degree in music studies from UML in 2017.
After two years of virtual career fairs
during the pandemic, Assoc. Dean of Student Affairs for Career Development Greg Denon
was unsure how many students would attend the first in-person fair since fall 2019. But he was quite pleased as sharply dressed students milled around him on the Tsongas Center floor with a half-hour remaining.
“I’ve heard from employers how impressed they are, not just in the students’ credentials, but in how they come across,” said Denon, who oversees a Career & Co-op Center
that provides students with tips on everything from résumé and cover letter writing to interviewing and networking.
The pandemic has raised some new etiquette protocols for students to consider (Should they wear a mask? Should they offer to shake an employer’s hand?), but Denon said that by and large, it was a smooth transition back to an in-person event.
“It’s been great to see companies here that have never worked with us before, that have never been on campus,” said Denon, whose office hosted a Criminal Justice and Security Career Fair the following week on South Campus. “They need to be here, and they want to be here.”