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Archive for Sunday, December 27, 1998

EMPLOYERS MAKE COMMUNICATION A HIGH PRIORITY

December 27, 1998

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Businesses in the Midwest plan to hire 12.4 percent more college graduates next year than they did this year, a national survey shows.

In the real estate field, "location, location, location" is a standard mantra.

In the employment field, "communication, communication, communication" may be the theme for college graduates seeking jobs in 1999.

"Even with this economy, you'd think that employers would want to just hire somebody for positions that they need to fill, but that isn't the case," said Camille Luckenbaugh, employment information manager for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). "If that new employee can't communicate, employers would rather not fill the position."

NACE recently conducted a national survey asking hundreds of employers around the country what qualities they are seeking in college graduates.

Topping the list was interpersonal communications skills.

NACE, based in Bethlehem, Pa., asked employers to rank various qualities on a 1 to 5 scale, with a 5 being extremely important and a 1 being not important.

Interpersonal communication skills received a 4.66 in the survey, followed by teamwork skills with a 4.59 and verbal communication skills at 4.48.

NACE sent the mail survey to 1,660 businesses across the country and received 444 responses, Luckenbaugh said.

The survey did not break down results by individual states but did break down employers' anticipated hiring of new college graduates by region.

Employers in the Midwest said they would hire 12.4 percent more college graduates than last year.

Employers in the South said they would hire 19.3 percent more, and employers in the Northeast said they would hire 15.1 percent more college graduates than last year.

Employers in the West said they would hire 21.8 percent fewer new college graduates, but Luckenbaugh said that figure was affected by several electrical and electronic manufacturing firms that indicated they would not be hiring.

"If it wasn't for that, the West would be up as well," she said.

NACE does not name the companies it surveys, but Luckenbaugh said the companies range from small businesses to large corporations.

Locally, officials at Kansas University and at a Lawrence employment agency said they were not surprised that the possession of communication skills ranks high as a quality that employers are seeking.

"If you can't work with other people, you're going to have a hard time getting a job," said Ann Hartley, associate director of University Career and Placement Services.

"I think it's easier for employers to teach computer skills than communication skills," Luckenbaugh said.

Shirley Martin-Smith, owner of Adecco Personnel Services of Lawrence, said communication and teamwork are important even in manufacturing jobs.

"I definitely have to agree with those rankings," she said.

More than 1,200 students are graduating from Kansas University this fall, a typical number in recent years.

Many of those will be seeking jobs in the first part of 1999, employment officials said.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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