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In a market clamoring for workers, new grads have plenty of leverage

The class of 2022 is looking forward to a strong job market (Chuck Savage/Getty Images)
The class of 2022 is looking forward to a strong job market (Chuck Savage/Getty Images)

Kammarie Pelland walked into Framingham State University’s career fair feeling a little anxious. She was weeks away from graduating without a job lined up. But after mingling with a few employers, her anxiety quickly subsided.

“I’m really excited to go into the workforce because there’s definitely a lot of jobs that are open,” said Pelland, who is a marketing major. “You’re not battling against everybody for a position.”

Freshly minted college graduates like Pelland are entering a job market that’s eager to have them. U.S. employers are planning to hire 31.6% more college grads this year compared to 2021, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Because of the high demand for workers, the class of 2022 can afford to make some demands of their own.

“I will need a flexible schedule,” said Ariana Nunez, a psychology major and sociology minor. “I need people that’ll support me. Support what I wanna do. Help me network. Help me grow.”

Other students said they want workplaces that embrace qualities like diversity, teamwork and mentorship — not to mention competitive starting salaries.

Although previous classes may have entered the workforce with similar wish lists, these grads are more likely to get what they’re asking for.

“The world is their oyster right now,” said Alicia Modestino, an assistant professor and labor economist at Northeastern University. “It’s more true than it’s ever been.”

Modestino points out that worker shortages in Massachusetts and New England are even more severe than in the rest of the country. There is especially high demand for college-educated workers in fast-growing sectors like tech and finance.

At the same time, there are fewer college graduates to fill these roles for several reasons: low birthrates, slow immigration and people moving to more affordable cities.

Another factor driving the strong labor market: Some companies are on a hiring spree after putting off projects during the height of the pandemic.

Grace Hunt, who was at the career fair recruiting for software developer Meditech, said there is growing demand from hospitals for the Westwood-based company’s services.

“Now everybody is implementing a lot of the new software,” Hunt said. “So there are a lot of positions, and we’re really, really open minded to every different background.

According to Monique Cooper, assistant vice provost for academic and career advising at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the fierce competition for workers has a major benefit: In some cases, it’s pushing companies to change their work culture.

Most of Cooper’s students are people of color or the first in their family to go to college. More than ever, she said they feel empowered to choose employers who represent their values.

“You’ll see a lot of the the students that are coming into the workforce are really more civically and socially engaged,” Cooper said. “They are they are questioning employers’ values and their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in a really authentic, intentional way.”

Despite all the perks of this year’s job market, it hasn’t been all roses for these soon-to-be grads, said senior Phil Meola, a Framingham State computer science major.

“I was told to get a job and to get a good internship, you always want to network,” Meola said. “This pandemic, it really hurt that.”

Meola came to the career fair with a friend, Aaron Moyer, who is also a computer science major. Even though they are likely to find jobs that allow them to work from anywhere, both Meola and Moyer said they want positions that offer in-person interactions.

“I’m an introvert,” Moyer said. “Sometimes I struggle with communication with others, but that’s something I’m actively working on. I feel like going in-person is a lot better.”

Moyer is looking for an employer to help him build strong social skills, as well as technical skills. And until he finds the right candidate, he’ll keep his options open.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 WBUR. To see more, visit WBUR.