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Q&A with Martin Shibata, director of Cal Poly's Career Services

jlynem@thetribunenews.comFebruary 5, 2013 

Martin Shibata, 60, is the director of Career Services at Cal Poly

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Martin Shibata, 60, is the director of Career Services at Cal Poly, a position he has held since 2004. Shibata, who began working for Career Services in 1990, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA and a master’s degree in public administration from CSU L.A. He is an active member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers and serves in a leadership role within the California State University system, representing and serving all 23 CSU Career Centers.

Q: What new qualities are employers now seeking in college graduates that they didn’t seek before? Why?

A: Over the past decade, employers have become leaner. This has resulted in a smaller workforce, thus requiring employees to be involved in a wider range of work functions. So employers need graduates who are flexible and capable of being involved in multiple areas. The era of specialization has been replaced with the need for generalists who can do a wider range of work functions.

In addition, there has been an increase in the use and value of multi-disciplinary teams. Employers value graduates who are able to work in a team environment. Although this is not necessarily a new quality, there is a greater reliance on teams to solve problems and improve efficiencies.

Q: How long is it now taking college graduates to land their first job? Are some professions or industries hiring more readily and if yes, please elaborate.

A: Cal Poly graduates have been very successful in securing employment. The following data is taken from our Graduate Status Report (last graduating class of 2010-11):

  • 62 percent obtained employment before graduation.
  • 23 percent obtained employment one to three months after graduation.
  • 11 percent obtained employment four to six months after graduation.

So, 96 percent of the reported placements secured employment within six months after graduation.

Cal Poly’s “learn-by-doing” philosophy is a major factor that contributes to the success of students. There is a strong focus on team project and labs. In addition, many of our graduates are able to secure internships, co-op and summer jobs before graduation that better prepare them for industry. This has contributed to our student success.

Q: Do you see an improvement in the job market compared to 2011 and 2010?

A: The job market has been improving. We have seen an increase in employer participation in our career fairs. The Fall Quarter Career Fair, which was held Oct. 10 to Oct. 11, was at full capacity. We had 247 table registrations, the largest employer turnout for a two-day event. We were able to utilize the Recreation Center, which provided a larger venue than in years past. We hosted 730 recruiters and served 3,780 students. Eighty-one employers utilized the afternoon sessions for interviewing, representing 633 student interviews. This represented a significant increase in student interviews compared to the previous year.

Another indicator is that we have seen a 5 percent increase in employer participation in our on-campus interviewing program. This is also supported by a 34 percent increase in job postings. These all indicate and point to an improving job market.

Q: What can graduates expect in terms of pay? Again, explain how this varies based on specific industries or professions.

A: The median salary for Cal Poly graduates is $51,000 per year for the graduating class of 2010-11. This was slightly higher than the previous year at $50,000. It is important to point out that this is data from the 2010-11 graduating class. As the economy continues to recover, we expect to see a greater increase in the median salary for 2012-13 graduates.

Median salary varies per academic college. The College of Engineering maintains the highest median salary at $63,000, followed by the Orfalea College of Business at $52,000.

The College of Architecture & Environmental Design has been hit the hardest by the economy, showing a median salary of $42,000. The previous year, the median salary was $50,000. Architecture and construction continues to recover at a slower rate than other areas. Areas related to technology, engineering and business have fully recovered.

Q: Are graduates still competing with older, more seasoned professionals for jobs?

A: Graduates are not competing with older, more seasoned professionals. Cal Poly graduates go into entry-level starting positions. Employers focus on new graduates because they are more cost-effective compared to a seasoned professional.

Q: Given the slow-growth economy, has your advice to college students entering the workforce changed? If yes, how?

A: During a slow-growth economy, there are still jobs. Competition for those jobs is greater. Therefore we advise students to be “proactive” in their job search. Students need to be strategic in their search. We encourage our students to network with employers. This involves attending career fairs, employer events, employer panels, information sessions, networking sessions and other related activities to connect with employers. Many times, who you know in industry can be just as important as what you know. In addition, taking a proactive approach means contacting the employers directly as opposed to waiting for a response.

There has also been a change in career development.

In the past, the focus was on preparing for a specific career and finding a match between skills and interest. Future graduates will be faced with five to 10 career changes in their lifetime. Our advice to students also centers around exploring options as well as creating your own opportunities. We want our graduates to leave Cal Poly with the skill sets to be able to make their own career changes.

Q: What industries or professions are hiring college graduates in San Luis Obispo County? In California?

A: SLO County offers a broad range of small industries. Therefore, hiring is not focused on industries but rather opportunities. Companies like IQMS manufacturing, Shopatron, Santa Cruz Biotechnology and REC Solar have been growing, resulting in a need for new talent. They have been able to take advantage by hiring new graduates.

Q: In your view, what must local leaders do to create more jobs in SLO County?

A: Many graduates are interested in working in SLO County but are unaware of the opportunities available to them. To bridge this gap, Career Services will be offering a Local Employer Job Fair on Feb. 28. We are providing local employers an opportunity to connect with those students and prospective graduates who wish to remain in the area. This will provide local employers access to our highly talented pool of graduates.

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