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CDC Career Fair

A student speaks with an employer representative during a pre-COVID Career Fair.

First Destination Outcomes Report: Data Reinforces Value of STEM Education in Career Success

WPI’s Class of 2020 Succeeds in Job Market Despite Pandemic and Economic Uncertainty

May 10, 2021

Results of the First Destination Outcomes Report for WPI’s Class of 2020 indicate that, despite the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic uncertainty, WPI graduates are faring well in the job market. Six months after graduation, 93 percent were employed, pursuing additional education, serving in the military, or working in a volunteer capacity. The national average reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is holding steady at 86 percent while WPI numbers have been trending up for nearly a decade.

Further, results indicate that 2020 graduates are getting job offers at competitive salaries and even saw a modest (1.2 percent) increase in the average starting salaries over the previous year, to $72,951.

For the past eight years, WPI’s Career Development Center (CDC) has published a First Destination Outcomes Report that outlines the data, including employment status and average salary, collected from graduates six months after graduation. The university follows standards set by NACE, allowing the CDC to compare WPI’s results to other institutions of higher education.

The outcome report for the Class of 2020—with data collected via a variety of methods including surveys, a telephone campaign, faculty and staff, social media, among others—paint an unexpectedly robust picture of first destinations. WPI knows where 85 percent of the class launched their careers. This figure is 20 percent higher than the national average and is a result of sustained outreach by the CDC.

The report also showed that employers who hired WPI graduates reacted to the pandemic by delaying offers or start dates rather than rescinding job offers.

According to Steve Koppi, executive director of the CDC, “Many of our students, about a third, on average, accept offers in the fall, which is typical in large-employer STEM recruiting. In an informal survey conducted of 2020 WPI graduates and employers, we discovered that just 4 percent of the offers were rescinded and 21 percent of employers were waiting to make offers or delaying the start date.”

The survey also found that, in a proactive move, more 2020 graduates enrolled in advanced degree programs than in a typical year, likely because of economic uncertainty.

Student Satisfaction with CDC Services Consistently Exceeds National Average

A contributing factor to the students' success is their level of engagement with the CDC and the success culture created by the campus community, Koppi says. Early exposure in their academic career, outreach by the CDC over the course of their studies, and the quality and kinds of services offered plays a major role in the students’ career success. Many take advantage of a variety of programs offered, all of which have been virtual for more than a year, including advising appointments, resume critiques, online workshops, peer advisors, drop-in hours, and multiple career fairs held during the year. 

STEM Education at WPI Provides a Competitive Advantage for Graduates

The favorable survey results run counter to news reports indicating that 2020 presented a tough market for college graduates. Yet, with competition for highly educated and qualified candidates and the value placed on STEM skills in the candidate marketplace, WPI students are highly desirable and experiencing less impact on their career prospects than might be expected in light of the pandemic.

“Highly qualified candidates with a STEM education—and real-life experience from their IQPs, internships, and co-ops—are in demand. Employers are competing for talent and they don’t want to lose good candidates, nor the investment they have made to attract and hire the most qualified,” Koppi points out.

The Value of Data Driven Reporting and Student Takeaways

Information contained in the report is a valuable resource for the entire campus community, prospective students, their parents, and employers. The data is used as a benchmark against which to measure the success of graduates and, ultimately, the education and resources that WPI provides. Prospective students use the information to help them select where to pursue their education and even to decide on a major and a career to pursue. Employers use the data to help develop recruitment strategies for these graduates entering the workforce.

The CDC will also utilize information obtained to better understand outcomes for all students entering the workplace to address any gaps in opportunity, salary, and other important factors, particularly those related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workforce.

-Sharyn Williams

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