For STEM Companies, Career Fair Offers an Abundance of Potential New Recruits

September 20, 2017 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

Photo via Savita Iyer

It was impossible to miss Raychel Frisenda and her friend Brianna Bennett in the melee of formally dressed students thronging the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday, the third day of Penn State’s annual Fall Career Fair.

Not only had the engineering juniors eschewed the de rigeur suit, their pink (Rachyel) and blue (Brianna) hair set them apart from the crowd.

“Sure, it’s a little intimidating to show up dressed like this and see 4,000 people in suits,” Raychel said with a laugh, “but suits are so not me.”

“I don’t do ties and suits,” Brianna added, “and that’s not going to change, probably not even when I go to work.”

By all accounts, though, attire and hair color are irrelevant to the many companies gathered at the BJC on Thursday, technical recruiting day: Recruiters for these firms said they have positions to fill and they know they can count on Penn State to offer up smart, highly qualified STEM candidates like Reagen Alexich ’16, a chemical engineering major who found her current job at CoverGirl cosmetics at the Career Fair.

Coty, CoverGirl’s parent company, really needs more process engineers, Reagen said, and Penn State students are highly coveted.

It’s no secret that STEM jobs are among the hardest to fill. Companies reportedly have a tough time finding qualified candidates, and now, many are focused on creating a diverse workforce by hiring more women and minorities.

“Engineering is a very male dominated field,” Reagen said, “and in my graduating class, there were definitely more guys than girls.”

Today, diversity is a business imperative for any STEM company, according to Wayne Gersie, associate director of Penn State’s multicultural engineering program, and those companies that don’t have a diverse workforce stand to lose against their competitors in a globalized world.

Photo via Savita Iyer

It is not easy, though, for colleges to attract and retain STEM students from minority backgrounds. These are tough subjects, Gersie said, and they’re costly undertakings for many students, “but our office is dedicated to ensuring students not only succeed academically, but that from the moment they set foot on campus, they start developing a career trajectory that makes them highly attractive targets by the time they get to the Career Fair.”

Penn State is also making a dedicated effort to promote and retain women engineering students, Gersie said, thanks to the efforts of Cheryl Knoblauch, associate director of the Women in Engineering Program, and that’s making a difference out in the professional world.

“Even in the short time I’ve been working, I’ve seen that recruitment has become much more diverse, with more women joining male-dominated industries like the steel industry,” said Kailee Waugaman ’16, who also found her job with steel giant AreclorMittal at the fair, and is now recruiting for the firm.

Overall, opportunities abound for engineers, scientists, mathematicians and the like. And companies are not only looking for techies: A fair number of the 530-plus firms present during the three-day Career Fair came to scout out non-technical prospects as well.

This year’s recruiting companies represented a range of sectors and included Amazon, American Eagle Outfitters, Boeing, Corning, Dell, Nestle, Siemens and many more. The Pennsylvania State Police, the United States Postal Service, the City of Pittsburgh, and other entities were also present.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

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