There’s a steady stream of high-quality talent coming from Kansas State University, destined for careers in some of the nation’s most vital (and growing) industries.
In May 2021, the university awarded 5,356 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Some grads ventured out into the world, taking a little piece of Manhattan and K-State with them. Some remained in the state and took advantage of an innovative and growing collaboration between the university and the regions’ public, private, nonprofit and government stakeholders.
Regardless of where they landed, all benefited from the extensive college-to-career pipeline constructed by one of the Princeton Review’s top 10 university career services programs of 2023.
“K-State does an excellent job of helping our students develop career-ready competencies,” said Kerri Keller, director of the K-State Career Center. “It often comes from work experience — part time jobs, internships and skills gained from student involvement and academic experiences like undergrad research.”
She’s quick to add that thorough preparation isn’t the only draw for Wildcat grads, however.
“On top of that, there’s a kind of humbleness about the students who come to our university, along with a work ethic you don’t see elsewhere and an appreciation for the opportunities and support they receive,” Keller said. “That’s attractive to a lot of employers.”
The data supports this, with 97% of 2020-2021 graduates either employed or pursuing further education. Even during the pandemic-ravaged 2019-2020 year, this percentage dropped a mere two points to 95%. Similarly, when the annual growth rate of college graduates nationwide reached -9.9% in 2020, K-State held steady at -1.5% — a drop from 6,423 to 6,326.
K-State, with its more than 250 undergraduate programs and 165 graduate programs and certificates, produces career-ready professionals from a broad range of academic disciplines each year, but businesses have taken note of four in particular: science and engineering; business, finance and economics; education; and agriculture.
Compared with the national average, the university’s per capita concentration of these graduates is strong and steadily growing. The trend reflects the increasing demand for such talent, as do the competitive median salaries noted in the Career Center’s post-grad survey reports.
The K-State Career Center facilitates career readiness and real-world opportunities to connect employer and prospective employee across the university’s nine academic colleges on four campuses.
Employers worldwide can advertise open positions via Handshake, an early talent recruiting platform currently used in the U.S. On campus, recruitment events take place regularly throughout the academic year. In addition to a series of career fairs, employers can schedule interview sessions over a period of one or more days. The Career Center can facilitate connections between recruiters and student organizations, arrange for collaboration in classroom settings and provide space for gatherings such as informational presentations and networking events.
The Career Center Champions program offers employers the opportunity to sponsor online and in-person career services for greater brand visibility, exclusive interview opportunities, preferred participation in Career Center programming and more.
“When we interact with employers, it's often through career fairs, job listings and other traditional types of collaborations, but we also talk with them about how to enhance their brand recognition and find mutually beneficial ways to connect beyond those routes,” Keller said.
As the main gateway from college to career in the Greater Manhattan Region, the Career Center has observed patterns in the preferences of both employer and employee.
The employee recruitment landscape has changed with the shift to virtual communications during the pandemic. Once recruiters adapted to virtual career fairs and Zoom interviews, the convenience and cost savings were undeniable. Still, students seek authentic, personal connections with potential employers.
“When you consider that our data shows 75% of graduates settling within Kansas and surrounding states, many companies want to be in our backyard to share in that recruitment benefit,” Keller said. “Of those new graduates who stayed in the region, many chose to begin their careers here in Manhattan, partially due to its quality-of-life advantage and opportunities to engage with local employers.”
Many companies have seized opportunities to co-locate in that backyard through collaboration with K-State Innovation Partners and satellite locations in the K-State Foundation’s Edge Collaboration District, a collection of commercial office and state-of-the-art research developments adjacent to K-State’s Manhattan campus and the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF). Garmin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fulcrum Global Capital, McCownGordon Construction, Stormont Vail Health and others have established a presence in the district to streamline the recruitment process.
Companies that co-locate in the Edge District can:
“Being in the Edge Collaboration District so close to K-State has been an integral part of our success in the region,” said Jill Sherman, office manager at McCownGordon Construction. “In addition to traditional recruitment events on campus, we’ve hosted informal meet-and-greets at our office for students in the construction science and management program, allowing us to share more about our culture, work environment and employment opportunities in an informal setting.”
Companies that take advantage of the mutually beneficial arrangement have multiple opportunities for greater exposure to the students.
“It has opened the door for us to participate in classroom events on a regular basis, assist with technical panel reviews, become adjunct faculty and attend annual fundraising events to support various programs,” Sherman said. “All of this assists with marketing our firm, builds relationships with the students and provides the opportunity for them to intern and develop their careers in Manhattan, which has set us apart from other companies.”
Employers looking for top-of-the-line talent can expect to find it in the Greater Manhattan region, along with plenty of resources to help them make connections. The Career Center website includes a recruitment guide and employer timeline as well as links to register for services and events.