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Biggest Career Connection ever brings students and employers together

Students, recruiters, and display booths in the Engineering
                        Centers Building atrium at Career Connection 2006

Career Connection drew a record-setting 250 employers over three days to the Engineering Centers Building. Engineering Career Services Director and Assistant Dean Sandy Arnn says the current job market is at a five-year high. (large image)

Two decades ago, 20 companies visited campus for a day to recruit at the first Career Connection. In 2006, crowds of students and more than 1,500 representatives from 250 employers met in the Engineering Centers Building Sept. 19 through 21, the biggest event in Career Connection history.

“This exceeded our expectations, both in number of students and number of employers,” says David Winkelbauer, a recruiter for MGA Research Corporation.

The size of the fair is indicative of the expanding job market, according to Sandra Arnn, assistant dean and director of Engineering Career Services. “Aggressive on-campus recruiting and career fair attendance reflect the economy and the broad marketplace,” says Arnn. “Hiring needs of both corporate and governmental employers are up significantly.”

The employers in attendance were looking to fill internships, co-ops, and full-time positions at all degree levels. “In the 1980s and early 90s, this career fair primarily attracted employers seeking undergraduates,” says Arnn. “This year, many of them also are hiring MS graduates, and more than 50 organizations are seeking PhDs.”

Two business representatives and a student at Career Connection

Students made appointments for interviews and collected information, advice, and giveaways at Career Connection. Many of the recruiters were UW-Madison alumni. (large image)

Winkelbauer was looking for students and graduates in mechanical, industrial, biomedical and electrical engineering, as well as computer science and physics.

“We’ve been recruiting here for years because we get a lot of good candidates. This year, we’ve gotten more than expected. The students we’ve seen have been very well qualified,” says Winkelbauer. “We want to hire for the long-term. We’re looking for people who want to work in our industry, not people who just want a paycheck.”

This type of recruiting is good news for electrical engineering senior Curt McCutchin, who is seeking a full-time position to start after his December graduation. “I’ve been applying and sending out my resume online, but the vast majority of places don’t even reply,” he says. He hopes that the personal interaction at Career Connection will generate better responses.

The event offered 18 hours of face-to-face time over the three days. The students collected information, filled out applications, arranged interviews and treated themselves to product giveaways. “It is a more personal way for students to research and evaluate employers than simply going to a website,” says Arnn. “These representatives make strong and lasting impressions about the employers they represent.”

The students appreciate the opportunity to talk directly with company representatives, many of whom are UW-Madison alumni. “This is the best way to network with employers,” says Anita Mahay, a sophomore in industrial and systems engineering. Mahay came to Career Connection hoping to find a summer internship. “I’ve had a lot of success today,” she says.

Returning employers contribute to the annual event’s prosperity. Nestle recruiter Sally Lane was looking for undergraduates for an operations management training program. “We keep coming back because of the quality of the people. Each year we get a couple of hires from this, and they’re just fantastic,” she says. In addition to returnees like Nestle and MGA, more than 30 of the organizations in attendance were on campus for the first time.

“This is the best job market students have experienced since 9/11,” says Arnn. “Last year, many students again began to entertain multiple offers and signing bonuses, and it is expected that trend will continue.”