IU Northwest Connects Students and Employers

2013-08-18T07:30:00Z IU Northwest Connects Students and Employers nwitimes.com
August 18, 2013 7:30 am

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveys its employer members on hiring plans and other employment-related issues in order to assess a variety of conditions that may influence the job market for new college graduates.

Results from the latest NACE Job Outlook survey show employers expected to hire approximately 2.1 percent more graduates from the Class of 2013 than they hired from the Class of 2012. That’s quite a bit less than the 13 percent increase they had projected in a previous survey.

Today’s relatively flat hiring levels are reflective of recent job reports that indicate slow but steady growth and further emphasize the importance of gaining a competitive advantage while still in school for today’s college students.

Also in this year’s annual job outlook survey, employers ranked the skills they look for in recent college graduates. Once again, the ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside an organization came out on top.

With that in mind, students taking classes this summer at the Indiana University Northwest School of Business and Economics had the unique opportunity to personally interact with local employers as part of a required upper-level Career Planning course.

“This is a service course - getting our students employed is what we’re all about,” said HelenMarie Harmon, Assistant Director and Participating Faculty of the IU Northwest School of Business and Economics. “The focus is on meeting employer needs, and we cover areas such as resume creation, interviewing skills and overall workplace professionalism. Our goal is to help students fine-tune all the things they need to do before going in front of an employer.

“About three years ago, I came up with the idea for a student-to-employer networking opportunity. It’s a job fair-type event hosted that we do three times each year (during the last week of the course in the summer, fall and spring semesters). It’s been a big hit and continues to grow. The employers like it because they have an opportunity to meet business students who qualify as possible candidates for internship and job openings. We’re fortunate to have the support of so many great local businesses, including a number of representatives who are alums of the school.”

Last week, nine businesses supported the future professional growth and development of IU Northwest Students by sending one or more human resource professionals to the Employer Networking Evening. They represent a broad mix of industry expertise, including First Midwest Bank, Luke Oil, Menards, US Steel, Centier Bank, Hobart YMCA, New York Life, Danny Tsataros (Attorney), Strack & Van Til and Speedway. Other recent attendees include NiSource/NIPSCO, Walgreens, Accenture, White Lodging, Peoples Bank and UBS Wealth Management.

“I wish more colleges did this,” said Veronica Reyes, who has been a Human Resource Coordinator with Mernards in Michigan City for 12 years. “I really enjoy helping the students learn more about the recruitment process.”

Reyes and her colleague Yvonne Guardiola, who has been a Human Resource Coordinator with Menards in Merrillville for eight years, have been a part of the Employer Networking Evening from the beginning.

“There’s usually three of us,” Guardiola explained. “Our Valpo HR Coordinator was heartbroken that she couldn’t make it. We enjoy meeting the students each semester, going over their resumes and answering their questions.”

“Some of them don’t want retail, but there’s still a lot we can share,” Reyes added. “And most of them don’t know about our paid internship program that fits perfectly with their school schedules, or that we offer a manager trainee program post-graduation. So, while we’re here to support the school, we’re also doing some recruiting.”

For students as much as a year away from graduating, the experience to sit in front of real people who are hiring in Northwest Indiana is invaluable.

“Because they are students, I initially get a lot of blank stares when the event is announced,” Harmon said. “Then, through the duration of the course the students exhibit some expected anxiety and nervous excitement about the opportunity, especially when the list of attending employers is consistently shared and updated. Since we have quite a few alumni from our undergraduate or graduate programs sitting across the table from these new candidates, they still remember what it’s like to be on the other side. They can help the students make those real world connections. It’s a great wake up call for the current students to hear the same things we’ve been covering in class from a third party on the outside. It’s like I’m paying the employers behind the scenes.”

Last spring, Shannon Anderson was one of those students.

“I was a year from graduation, and I wasn’t looking for a job at all. I really truly didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated,” she said. “So I wasn’t into it at first. I was really nervous and unsure of myself.”

Once she started talking to people and feeling more at ease, Anderson found herself in front of an employer she never thought she would work for – Speedway, the fourth largest chain of company-owned and operated gasoline and convenience stores in the U.S., operating in nine states throughout the Midwest.

“The recruiter (an IU Northwest alumnus) and I just clicked, we have the same outgoing and friendly personality,” she explained. “He told me about the company’s paid internship opportunities and gave me an application to fill out. I received a phone call from Speedway the very next day to schedule an interview. I was very comfortable where I was already working so it honestly scared me. But after that first interview, I knew I wanted this. I’m now an Operations Intern with Speedway, doing a lot of in-store training, and I will work with the district and store managers in the future. I’m learning all the ropes and having a great time meeting everyone. It’s a calming feeling to know what I’ll be doing when I graduate. I’m very thankful for that one-on-one time and the chance to meet someone in a career I want to be in someday. It’s really the best opportunity. I recommend that class and IU Northwest’s program to everyone who asks about my job.”

If you’re an employer and would like to attend an upcoming Student to Employer Networking Evening, please contact HelenMarie Harmon at 219-980-6644 or by email at hharmon@iun.edu

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