Tech & Work

Decline in job offers for CS graduates may fill IT consultants' needs

If your consultancy needs additional help but you can't afford an established IT professional, Susan Harkins says this is the perfect time to consider contracting with a recent Computer Science graduate or hiring one as an intern.

 Almost every article I read lately begins with a nod toward surviving our sluggish economy. While I'd rather having a strong, stable economy, a slow economy can have a perk or two, especially if you're in the market to contract new talent for your IT consultancy and you're willing to work with recent graduates rather than established professionals.

If your consultancy is small, you probably find it difficult to compete for IT professionals — you simply can't offer the same salary and benefits as a large, traditional employer. This year, that could change because traditional employers are hiring fewer graduates this spring.

Last year, 25% of graduating seniors (bachelor degree) had a job waiting upon graduation. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), that percentage is down this year. According to its Job Outlook 2009 survey, only 19% of graduating seniors have secured a position. In addition, this same survey shows that employers plan to hire 22% fewer 2009 graduates than they did in 2008. Those statistics include all markets, not just IT, but consider this next statistic: Computer Science majors have also lost ground with beginning salaries — down from $65,379 in Spring 2008 to $58,837 this spring.

In a nutshell, there are fewer traditional jobs for Computer Science majors, and they'll make less than their counterparts from just a year ago. That's bad for graduating seniors, but it might be good for your consultancy because:

  • More graduates will be available to contract with you.
  • Your clients will benefit from the latest and greatest technology information. It's reasonable to expect a new graduate to infuse your company with new insight and innovative ideas.
  • Your bottom line will benefit because you'll pay the new graduate less than a more experienced contractor.

If hiring a new graduate isn't in your budget, you might consider taking on a new graduate as an intern. According to NACE's 2009 Experiential Education Survey (NACE membership required to view the survey), traditional employers are also reducing positions for interns. A small consultancy might be competitive in recruiting an intern. The same survey predicts intern salaries to rise by 4.9%, with an average hourly wage of $17.13. You can expect to pay a graduate intern more.

Traditionally, those positions go to students, and they're often unpaid or paid very little, but trying times call for flexibility. You could hire a graduate as a paid intern and offer to mentor the graduate in a specialty area. It's a reasonable arrangement for a new graduate who is having trouble finding a traditional IT position. It's a win-win situation: You get affordable help, and the intern gains experience.

To see if recent CS graduates in your area are looking for work, a good place to start would be the local college's CS department or the school's career counselor.

Do you think this is a hiring strategy you'll explore? If so, are you in the market to hire a recent CS graduate as a contractor or as an intern?

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About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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