Two-Thirds of Philly College Students Want to Stay, Study Finds

Graduates “feel the dynamism of Philly’s job market,” says Campus Philly.

Philadelphia Skyline | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

In the past few years we’ve learned that Philadelphia is attractive to the flood of Millennials moving in, but what about those Millennials who are already here, racking up degrees at Philly’s stellar institutions? Do they have plans to stay here?

A new Campus Philly study that surveyed more than 1,000 current college students in the region answered just that — 67 percent of respondents think they’ll stay in Philadelphia for at least some time after they graduate, up from 58 percent from a 2010 survey.

“One of our largest goals is to retain students in Philly after they graduate. With this survey we tried to understand where their heads are,” Campus Philly president Deborah Diamond told Philadelphia magazine. “The results show that consciously or subconsciously, these students are sensing the dynamism of the Philly job market.”

For the first time in at least 25 years, Philly is outpacing New York in job growth, and according to the survey, college students in the area seem to know.

When it comes to entering Philly’s workforce, about 88 percent think there are many (46 percent) or some (42 percent) job opportunities for them in Greater Philadelphia. And about 52 percent of seniors feel they have better job opportunities in Greater Philadelphia than elsewhere. Only 18 percent of students said there are better places than Philadelphia to find a job after college. The report also found that native Philadelphians and students in the class of 2017 are more likely to want to stay in Philadelphia.

Whether these graduates feel prepared to connect to Philly’s job market was something else the survey explored.

More than two-thirds of all respondents and 81 percent of seniors reported that they had visited their school’s career-service office and 81 percent of all students said they had attended a career event like a job fair. But less than half of students said they attended a one-on-one career counseling session with an advisor.

The most room for growth for current students is surprisingly in modern career-building skills like maintaining a LinkedIn profile. Students are suffering from a lack of confidence here, the report found. Nearly 70 percent of students felt comfortable with resume writing, while only 53 percent felt comfortable using LinkedIn. Similarly, nearly 70 percent reported feeling comfortable with interviewing skills, while only 52 percent feel comfortable networking.

“These areas are big opportunities for our region to grow,” Diamond said. “Students still want and need real life skills. We need to create more opportunities for them to meet employers in person and develop their networking skills.”

When asked whether they felt they had connections to employers, 58 percent of students said they agreed while 42 percent disagreed or were unsure.

A bulk of Campus Philly’s work is helping employers develop internship programs, and Diamond says the organization was pleased to discover that 79 percent of seniors in the region reported having an internship. That’s higher than the national average of 61 percent as reported by the National Association of College and Employers. And even 25 percent of first year students said they’d had an internship while in college.

So where can the region go from here? Well, for one, businesses still have a major opportunity to create internship programs, but a lot just might not know how to get started. Though Campus Philly’s been around since 2004, businesses aren’t aware that the nonprofit provides technical support to help companies build programs and recruit students.

“A lot of business don’t know that there’s a Campus Philly,” said Diamond. “All employers are welcome to use our platform to launch and post their internships, to put their best foot forward with college students.”

Businesses like FMC and Nasdaq decided to move closer to University City partly to reinforce their ties with Philly students, they’ve said. Comcast senior executive vice president David L. Cohen, a Swarthmore graduate himself, serves as honorary chair of Campus Philly and says Comcast has taken full advantage of the city’s student population through the nonprofit.

“In Greater Philadelphia we’re fortunate that much of the talent comes from our local colleges and universities. This area has one of the highest concentrations of college and graduate students of any regions in the country,” Cohen said.

Looking ahead, Diamond said Philly has a lot of time before it has to really think about Millennials leaving for the suburbs. After all, 63 percent of current college students in the region said they see themselves living in a U.S. city 10 years after graduation, while 37 percent said they’re unsure or anticipate living in the suburbs, a rural area or another country.

“With the youngest of them at 18, we’ve got 15 years of them in the city,” Diamond said. “And we’re well-positioned. When you look at private and public investments from initiatives like Rebuild, universal pre-K and neighborhood development, we’re on the right track.”

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