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A weekly newsletter about the intersection of education and work. By Paul Fain

Handshake’s labor market scans track which industries are hiring, for what roles, and how students are applying for jobs. Also, a survey links student engagement with career prep, and IBM and LinkedIn look at the role of digital credentials and other forms of upskilling.

Hiring the Class of 2023

College students are anxious about their job searches in this mold-breaking labor market, understandably. Handshake is one of many companies that are tracking these economic shifts. But the career networking platform also is producing an unusual blend of data on hiring and how college students are approaching their job searches.

Handshake connects roughly 12M college student users across 1,400 colleges and universities with internship and job opportunities at its more than 750,000 employer partners. The company is using this huge footprint to glean information from both employers and students for the early talent labor market updates it recently began releasing.

“We’re able to offer unique, real-time insights into how college students are engaging with internships and the broader labor market,” says Jacqueline Barrett, an economist, data scientist, and consultant who is the lead on the Handshake reports.

The company, which is valued at $3.5B, also tracks which industries are hiring, what kind of jobs employers are posting, and the skills or majors of students they are trying to find.

“This kind of insight enables policymakers, colleges, and students themselves to ensure that students are building the skills that are important in the labor market and applying to the roles/industries that are actually hiring,” says Barrett, who previously worked at LinkedIn and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

For example, Handshake’s January report looked at the impact of Big Tech layoffs on the labor market’s broader demand for entry-level technical talent. The tech industry is still investing in these roles, according to the analysis, while demand is increasing for entry-level software and computer tech jobs in industries outside of tech.

The company saw more of these postings in government, construction, and finance, Barrett says. That trend is likely to continue, she says, citing job-posting data and conversations with HR officials across the automotive, manufacturing, and hospitality industries.

“Employers see the current job market as an opportunity to attract the Class of 2023,” says Barrett. “For years, non-tech industries have struggled to compete with Silicon Valley for top tech talent.”

Journalists are paying attention to Handshake’s findings — the company’s analysis has been featured in a slew of recent mainstream coverage, including an article from The Wall Street Journal last week on the Beltway’s hot tech job market.

The latest Handshake report, released today, looks at the shifting geography of tech hiring for young people.

Iowa and Maryland are among states with an increased number of entry-level job postings for tech roles, the analysis found, and more student interest in applying for opportunities in those states.

Traditional tech hubs like California and New York, however, are seeing fewer entry-level tech openings and less student interest. Likewise, students are casting wider geographic nets with their searches, with big increases in applications per job in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Oregon.

Handshake surveys its students to better understand what’s behind their job searches. It found that a recent spike in the number of jobs students are applying to, for example, was due to their worries about economic uncertainty. The survey data also sheds light on how students perceive the value of their college experience.

The company captures student demographics on its platform and in surveys. It uses race and ethnicity data to help employers identify diverse talent sources. Barrett points to some data trends Handshake has uncovered across racial lines:

  • Black and Hispanic respondents favor using formal resources from their colleges when searching for a job, while white and Asian-American students prefer personal and professional networks over institutions.
  • Students from underrepresented groups are more interested in remote work — the share of applications for those roles from Black platform users was 2.4 percentage points higher than from other student users.
  • While 43% of all respondents say they applied to positions that were showcased at virtual career events, Black and Hispanic students were more likely to apply to a job after attending a virtual event.

As employers scramble to deal with the growing wave of Baby Boomer retirements, Barrett says Handshake hopes its labor market reports can help young people be better positioned to enter the labor market.

The Kicker: “In an era of rapid skills obsolescence and talent shortages around key skills,” she says, “we also hope that we can educate employers on skills-based hiring and how to source for talent that may have adjacent skills who can be trained quickly.”

Career Prep and Engagement

Keeping students engaged in a fully-online environment was an enormous challenge for faculty in the first couple semesters of the pandemic. Opening campuses back up was supposed to help.

But student interest hasn’t fully recovered, even as many courses have returned to their in-person formats or been updated to hybrid. That’s been a consistent finding of the National Survey of Student Engagement and other faculty and student surveys. Now Wiley, a publisher and online program manager, is out with a new survey that found substantial numbers of students remain disengaged because they don’t see how their coursework connects with careers.

“Returning to in-person instruction hasn’t solved the problem of disengagement even if students are happy to be back to ‘normal,’” the report says.

More than 55% of the undergraduates surveyed said they struggled to stay engaged in class, and the same percentage had a hard time retaining the material. For institutions, that’s showing up as students leaving for other colleges or exiting higher education altogether.

  • When asked an open-ended question, a quarter of students reported that additional real-world material, including experiential learning, would improve their educational experience.
  • And 81% said that it’s important for colleges to offer real company-led projects. About the same proportion wanted support in preparing for professional certifications.

The big idea: A growing number of institutions have focused on bringing career prep into the classroom, whether on their own or through companies like Riipen and Practera, which run platforms that connect faculty, students, and employers for work projects.

The University of Rochester and University of Redlands, for example, both provide small grants to faculty fellows who act as career development liaisons in their classes. And, on a much larger scale, Arizona State University recently forged a partnership with Riipen to bring work-integrated learning into many classes across the mega university. To date, 9K students have been served.

Yet, that kind of reach into the classroom remains rare.

  • In the Wiley survey, only 30% of instructors said their institutions provide access to work-based projects and about the same (32%) provide support in preparing for professional certifications.

Outside the classroom, a third of students say it’s difficult or very difficult to find an internship. When they do, three quarters are satisfied with their experience. That aligns with findings of other surveys like those by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and Strada Education Network.

Those surveys have found that students who have internships — especially paid internships — report greater satisfaction with their education, are more confident in their workplace skills, and ultimately receive more job offers and earn more.

Yet only 3 out of 10 students have a paid internship during their college career, and women and Black and Latino students are less likely to have paid internships than their peers. — Elyse Ashburn

Open Tabs

Low-Value Programs

The higher-ed lobby, minus the for-profit sector, opposes the Biden administration’s planned annual list of college programs that provide the least financial value, Katherine Knott reports for Inside Higher Ed. Industry groups cited limitations with earnings data in comments to the feds, saying it would be “almost impossible” to create sound criteria. Senate Democrats and some advocacy groups, however, are strong backers of the plan.

Ethical Offboarding

Companies that prepare for layoffs and practice “ethical offboarding” can improve employee morale and engagement as well as their competitive position, Cat Ward, JFF’s vice president of employer mobilization, writes in a new report. Companies should invest in outskilling for workers whose jobs are at risk of eventually being eliminated, the report says, while also offering training programs to help employees build in-demand skills.

Incentive Compensation

The U.S. Department of Education will hold listening sessions on how contractors recruit students for online college programs. Citing an exception to the prohibition on incentive compensation for recruiters, including OPMs, the department said: “Given the growth in online enrollment and associated federal student debt, the department is seeking public input to understand the impact of this exception and whether any updates are necessary to the guidance.”

Wage Premium

Starting salaries for new graduates with bachelor’s degrees appear to be leveling off, according to a new survey of employers from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Employers project that starting salaries for computer science and social science graduates will drop somewhat, while salaries in other fields are expected to hold steady or see percentage increases in the single digits.

Sponsored Degrees

Purdue Global and the University of Maryland Global Campus announced a multi-year partnership on an employer-sponsored cybersecurity degree with GetSet, a Chicago-based company. Employers will cover the last two years of degree program costs for selected students at the two online institutions, while offering internships. In exchange, students commit to work for the employer for two years.

Prison Education

The D.C. Jail recently began offering a free AWS cloud certification to prisoners through a collaboration with APDS, a prison tablet provider, Charlotte West reports for College Inside. APDS provides tech-driven programs in 120 correctional facilities in 17 states. The B-Corporation’s career readiness platform connects students at the D.C. Jail with Amazon employee volunteers for help with job skills, including mock interviews.

A reader asks if I’m aware of any comprehensive lists of companies that offer employees education or student loan repayment benefits. I am not. Are you? Please send ideas my way.

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— Paul Fain

A veteran higher education journalist and analyst, Paul focuses on the connections between education and the American workforce.