Advice for Employers and Recruiters

Employers expect to hire fewer interns, more new grads

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Steven Rothberg AvatarSteven Rothberg
March 24, 2021


When it comes to recruitment, including the recruitment of college and university students and recent graduates for part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level jobs, one of the things that remains the same year after year is that very little remains the same. Change is continuous. Sometimes that’s good news. Sometimes that’s bad news. And sometimes, like right now, there’s good and bad news.

We all know that Covid upended all of our lives. Some suffered more than others. Some suffered greatly for a period of time and then not much later. But we all suffered. One of the groups that suffered the most were those who looking for employment a year ago. Whether it was a student searching for an internship or a recent graduate hunting for an entry-level job, the job market went from being red-hot in late 2019 to ice-cold in early 2020.

Now, as we’re in early 2021, the bulk of employers who hire the bulk of college and university students have adapted to the new reality. For some, that meant greatly scaling back on how many they hired. For others, the number of hires remained about the same but the work they did — or where they did the work — changed. And for a small number, hiring greatly increased.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently released the results of two surveys. They’re interesting individually but even more so when read together. The first report, the 2021 Internship & Co-Op Survey Report, found that intern hiring is only expected to be down 0.5 percent this year but co-op hiring is projected to fall by nearly three percent. According to NACE, among employers that are changing their intern and co-op hiring, 75 percent cited the needs and resources of the organization, 50 percent pointed to COVID-19, and 37 percent indicated the state of the market/economy. 

The second report, fortunately, was more positive. According to NACE’s Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update, employers project hiring 7.2 percent more new college graduates from the Class of 2021 than they hired from the Class of 2020. “The rebound in hiring suggests optimism on the part of employers, fueled by expectations around the reopening of shuttered businesses, COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and the addition of jobs to the economy. While not at the pre-pandemic hiring levels seen in 2019, the overall increase does signal strong movement in a positive direction.”

According to NACE, further evidence of the rallying job market for college graduates is evident in the individual hiring plans of respondents to this survey. Almost 30 percent of employers are reporting that they plan to hire more new college graduates — up from 16.5 percent in fall 2019 — and just eight percent plan to decrease hiring, down significantly from 31 percent reporting such plans in the fall. 

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