February 14, 2008



Pat Reuss, Career Services, 657-2011
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — If the level of interest and enthusiasm in among local business and industry representatives is any indication, this year’s crop of college graduates will enter a strong job market.


And if the students are any indication, they are eager to land jobs.
Representatives from more than 70 area businesses filled the Montana State University Billings Student Union Building Thursday afternoon for the 11th annual Career Fitness Fair.


Presented jointly by MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College, the event is a two-way conversation between students and potential employers. They talk about internship opportunities, full-time and part-time jobs and career potentials.


A college student talks with a recruiter from First Interstate Bank at the annual Career Fitness Fair. More than 70 Billings area employers were a part of this year’s event. “We’re looking to fill jobs in almost every field,” said Jack Kuntz, who works for the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs Rocky Mountain Region Office in Billings.


He and other recruiters are paying close attention to college students these days. They have to. Kuntz said within the ranks of current BIA employees, 45 percent will be retired by 2013. Similar scenarios confront nearly every sector of the labor force.


Kuntz, who also serves on the MSU Billings Career Services Advisory Board, said while the academic skills and preparation shown by soon-to-be graduates is valuable, the personal traits and characteristics modeled by MSU Billings students — the ability to communicate, work in teams and provide quality customer service — is equally as valuable.

“We like to look for someone who is enthusiastic about what they’re doing,” he said as scores of students in freshly pressed shirts, new ties and suits queued up for meetings with potential employers. “And you can almost feel that when you’re talking to students.”


Pat Reuss, director of the Office of Career Services at MSU Billings, said about 600 students routinely take part in the annual career fair. Some of those students are looking for summer internship opportunities while others are seniors who are looking for their first employment out of college.


One of those students was Joe Wesen, a senior business management major. Holding a stack of folders under his arm from potential employers, Wesen said he felt “very positive” about employment possibilities once he graduates in May.


The positive outlook locally is mirrored in a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.


The national survey shows that college graduates will enter a relatively good job market with employers expecting to increase college hiring by 16 percent with an overall average starting salary offer for graduates 4 percent higher than it was at this time last year.


The survey also indicates that hiring projections are strong across the board, regardless of industry, economic sector or geographic region. Competition is expected to be particularly fierce for graduates in accounting, engineering and computer science backgrounds.


Ron Yates of the CPA firm Eide Bailly, one of the Career Fitness Fair sponsors, said the Billings office recruits local accounting students and “is always looking for interns for our tax and audit practice.”


Accounting graduates continue to be in high demand nationally and locally, he said. In fact, two MSU Billings students who are working as interns this tax season will have full-time jobs after graduation.


Some current students were being recruited by MSU Billings alums.


Alexis Urbaniak, a 2005 graduate, now works as an employment representative in the human resources department at Employee Benefit Management Services, a local company that specializes in design of self-funded benefit plans.  Providing enthusiastic responses to energetic inquiries, Urbaniak said her company was attending to find customer service representatives, programmers and database specialists. Many positions they need filled have been very difficult to fill.


“IT (information technology) people are the hardest to find,” she said, noting two open positions have been waiting to be filled for months.