It's an almost universal anxiety among college students: What happens after graduation? Universum Communications, an employer branding and research firm, has surveyed undergrads interested in fashion, apparel and retail on the most ideal employers. "The favorites are all associated with students' impressions of the ideal work-life balance," said Claudia Tattanelli, chief executive officer of Universum USA. The key attributes in the top 10 include: innovation, diversity, social responsibility and environmental commitment. They all have impressive training programs and none has a strict corporate office atmosphere. Retail operations are abundant within the majority of these favorite employers, and six of the top 10 have headquarters on the West Coast.
Percentage of students interested in fashion, retail and apparel who chose this company as their ideal employer: 17.8
This media giant takes top honors, bumping Gap — 2006's winner — into second place. Sure, everyone knows of Walt Disney's theme parks and retail stores, but the company also boasts TV, radio, Internet and publishing businesses. Disney owns ABC, the Disney Channel and a majority stake in ESPN. It is a partner in the Lifetime Network conglomerate and A&E television network, among others. "This company has been upping its game quite a bit," said Claudia Tattanelli of Universum USA. "Disney has an incredible internship program, and the company is definitely a great resume builder." A male respondent from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said: "Walt Disney provides the best internship program. The company is a result of the talent and innovation of youth. They realize this and cater to students."
Training programs abound for college students and recent grads. They include: The Retail Management Program, a nine-month training regimen that provides exposure to areas of the business through special projects and rotations in different departments; Manager in Training Program, an eight-week, in-store session for college graduates interested in store management, after which participants are assigned to manage an Old Navy store, and internships. in which every summer Gap invites undergraduate and M.B.A. students to visit the company's headquarters for a hands-on retail experience. "Gap is maintaining a strong brand image — students are attracted to the company's advertising and branding," Tattanelli said.L'OREAL
"This is an international powerhouse," Tattanelli said. "There are opportunities in the U.S. and overseas, and L'Oreal boasts some of the most prestigious beauty and fragrance brands in the world." Brands in the company's portfolio include Kiehl's, Lancome and Maybelline. One of L'Oreal's recruitment strengths of young talent is its annual "Brandstorm" competition. This international marketing competition gives students the opportunity act as a L'Oreal brand manager and to revamp an existing brand. "Another appealing factor in their training programs is that they place employees within different divisions and move them around,'' Tattanelli said. "This is appealing, because employees will get to learn about the company's operations working under a variety of their brands."
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, one of the best-known global Web search properties, ranked within the top five across every single industry polled. "This is an ideal company to work for, no matter what industry you want to be in," Tattanelli said. "Google is the answer to everything, in terms of what people desire in a work environment." She said the company doesn't need to focus on diversity issues because there are so many employees from all types of ethnic backgrounds. "The average employee is 24 years old, the company provides three gourmet meals a day, you can bring your dog to work — all of these issues are appealing to students," she said.
"I cannot wait to see where this company ranks next year," Tattanelli said, referring to the recent iPhone buzz surrounding Apple, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer giant. She noted that the company fluctuates in the rankings, depending on product launches. "The last four years, we've seen excellent products coming from Apple. They are one of the most innovative companies, and Millennials love how hip, creative and trendy their products are." An active recruiter, Apple holds campus events across the U.S. The company hosted four career fairs at universities during April and May alone. In addition, its Web site says, "Apple is hiring new grads. If you have limited or no on-the-job experience — but a sharp intellect, a top-notch educational background and the energy to move the industry forward — Apple would like to talk to you."TARGET
This Minnesota-based mass retailer's stock is up 44.7 percent from a year ago — it has also inched up a slot in Universum's rankings. Tattanelli noted that students have been impressed with Target's innovation and business strategy. "I myself can't believe how innovative this company is," she added. "To successfully combine retail with affordable fashions? This is a real winner for the industry — Wal-Mart and Kmart have never been able to do this the way Target has." Students surveyed also commented on the popularity of the ad campaigns. In addition, Target is visible at career fairs across the country. "Target will send in tons of recruiters to actually set up parties and separate rooms at these career fairs," Tattanelli said.
Nike's Web site says it all: "We aren't looking for workers. We're looking for people who can contribute, grow, think, dream and create. We thrive in a culture that embraces diversity and rewards imagination...at Nike, it is about bringing what you have to a challenging and constantly evolving game." Headquartered in Beaverton, Ore., Nike has been recognized for it attractive employee benefits — think paid sabbaticals, 50 percent discounts on company products and on-site fitness centers and child care facilities. "We've noticed that males choose this company often, and it's an appealing company to our minority students, as well," Tattanelli said. "The innovation behind Nike's products is just phenomenal, as is its brand image."
Although BMW may not be well-known as a campus recruiter, the company's name has high recognition. "BMW has turned cars into a sexy, successful, powerful brand," Tattanelli said. "When it comes to buzz — if there is a sexy car out there, it'll be a BMW." She also said that the company is creative in terms of taking care of its people and employees all receive a discount on their cars. Undergraduate male students responded very positively to this brand. A male junior from the University of Virginia commented, "BMW's [training] program allows for deeper understanding of all of the processes that go into creating their automobiles."STARBUCKS
"This is one of the most interesting companies in the Top 10," Tattanelli said. "Starbucks took a nonsexy industry [coffee] and made it sexy, hip and trendy." Seattle-based, it's a global brand that continues to expand. "They treat their employees well, it's an environmentally conscious company, and it's on the West Coast, so the work environment is more progressive than others," she said. A female freshman from Syracuse University stated she wanted to work at Starbucks "because you get exposure to many aspects of the business, and you get to think about corporate strategy in a company that is socially responsible." Another female from the University of Washington, Seattle, commented, "It is a growing company, and it demands employees that will be qualified to maintain operations, along with those who are committed to expanding the corporation."
The New Albany, Ohio-based retailer will focus more on globally expanding its innerwear and beauty offerings. Last week, company founder Leslie Wexner agreed to sell a 75 percent stake in the firm's namesake Limited Stores Division to an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc. This comes after the sale of a majority interest in its Express nameplate to Golden Gate Capital for $602 million. Though it experienced a drop in the rankings, "They really do have great recruiting and training programs," Tattanelli said. A student from Ohio's Miami University observed: "Limited Brands offers the best internship program...interns get so much more experience in different areas of the business."
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