Recruiters Say They’re Hiring, But UCSD Engineering Students See It Differently

2/23/09Follow @bvbigelow

California’s jobless data for January is set for release Friday, but there’s little reason to expect much improvement since December, when the statewide unemployment rate hit 9.3 percent, with more than 1.73 million California residents out of work. In San Diego County, overall unemployment was at 7.4 percent in December, with 117,000 people jobless.

For the tech sector job market specifically, Xconomy’s layoff trackers offer another barometer of a generally grim situation (You can find our San Diego layoff tracker here). Greg and Wade provided another perspective last month by talking to some of the MBA students at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, MA, during their annual “tech trek” to meet with companies in Silicon Valley, as well as Seattle and Boston.

But I sensed more anxiety—or maybe it was less confidence—when I dropped in at UC San Diego Friday for an annual job fair organized by students at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

“Everyone’s worried about the economy,” says Dat Kieu, a third-year undergraduate studying mechanical engineering. He was looking for an internship or part-time job.

UCSD says its Disciplines of Engineering Career Fair (DECaF) is the only annual, student-managed, multidisciplinary career fair on campus. and this year 71 companies participated. A public relations coordinator, eager to convey the idea that companies are hiring, even provided a survey (with 30 of the 71 companies responding) that shows 40 percent of the companies attending the fair say they plan to hire the same number of full-time positions in 2009 as they hired in 2008—although 33 percent say they plan to hire fewer entry-level engineers. The same survey shows 53 percent expect to place the same number of engineering interns this year, with 23 percent planning to recruit fewer interns in 2009.

“It’s an interesting hiring climate,” says Qualcomm recruiter Vince Walker. “We’re not going full throttle, but we’re still bringing people on board.” Yet Walker and other recruiters told me the tough job market enables them to be far more selective.

Bob Balderas, a recruiter for New Jersey-based BD Biosciences, which employs about 400 in San Diego, says the company plans to start … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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