Wichita State job fair shows progress in hiring

The hiring environment for college students is better, but still not great overall, said job recruiters at a Wichita State University job fair this week.

Mostly, recruiters said they came to Koch Arena Thursday because their companies needed to restock their talent pipeline for a variety of jobs after three years of layoffs and hiring freezes. Several reported that their companies were performing better and needed more staff.

Several recruiters said they had positions to fill, but not for jobs based in Wichita. WSU was just one stop among many universities in the region, they said.

Others said they were on campus more to market their companies for the future, instead of hiring for current vacancies or expansion, said Jill Pletcher, WSU’s director of career services.

“Some of it is having a presence, reminding students that they are out there even if they aren’t really doing much hiring,” she said.

But even that is progress, she said. The university didn’t hold a fall job fair last year because of a lack of interest from employers, she said.

This year, there were about 60 exhibitors, including industrial manufacturers and suppliers, aircraft subcontractors and tech companies. Also represented were organizations that always come, such as financial advising companies and the military.

The students participating in the event tended to be heavy on engineering, computers technology and business.

“As far as jobs … I feel like I’m competing against guys who have been at this for 10 years already,” said Samuel Smith, a senior in mechanical engineering.

He expects – or, maybe, hopes, he said – that the market for mechanical engineers locally will perk up by the time he’s ready to graduate next spring.

“Right now, it’s pretty bleak,” he said.

But that contrasts with Justin Hickey, a senior computer engineering major. He is looking to work on embedded software, which includes programs that run a wide variety of appliances. It’s a high-demand field at the moment, he said. He was pumped up as he strolled past the employers’ booths.

“I’ve got lots of brochures in hand and lots of places to apply to tonight,” he said.