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The GMAC survey found 72 per cent of firms expect to hire new MBA graduates this year, up from 69 per cent in 2014.Jesper Elgaard/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

A "favourable" job market awaits this year's business school graduates, according to a global survey released this week by the U.S.-based Graduate Management Admission Council.

The survey of 169 firms in 33 countries (including Canada) found that nine of 10 employers, upbeat about economic prospects, expect to maintain or add to job openings in 2015 compared to a year earlier.

The survey found the employer focus is on all categories of graduate-level business degrees, with slightly less interest in undergraduate business degree holders.

For example, 72 per cent of firms expect to hire new MBA graduates (the main targets for recruitment) compared to 69 per cent in 2014. Employers also show increased interest in those with specialty graduate degrees, a growing phenomenon at business schools, with the sharpest spike in demand (41 per cent of firms in 2015 compared to 30 per cent last year) for those with a master of management degree.

"These graduate-level degree holders are giving themselves a competitive advantage in the marketplace," says Michelle Sparkman Renz, director of research communication for GMAC, which is based in the Washington area. "Employers recognize their skills."

The positive employment picture stems from company intentions to expand, according to the report, compared to the postrecession years when firms emphasized cutting costs and, if hiring at all, recruited business undergraduates ahead of those with graduate degrees.

In the current survey, 78 per cent of employers expect to hire those with undergraduate business degrees, down from 82 per cent last year.

The message for undergraduate business students, says Ms. Sparkman Renz, is to recognize that employers are looking for recruits with data-driven decision-making abilities and interpersonal skills.

Also encouraging for new graduates, the survey found a growing proportion of companies ready to increase base annual salaries to at or above the rate of inflation in 2015. As well, 55 per cent of employers plan to offer internships to MBA students.

Undergrad and MBA competitions crown their champions

In a test of their academic, social and athletic skills, undergraduate students from 14 business schools in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick kicked off the new year at the 27th annual Jeux du Commerce, held this year at the Université de Sherbrooke.

For the first time in five years, the top prize went to students from Laval University's business administration faculty, whose student teams placed second and third, respectively, in the past two years. This year, Laval reached the podium in 10 of 13 business case studies and finished second in Frisbee, one of three sports at the three-day competition.

Students from HEC Montréal and the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal placed second and third, respectively.

Meanwhile, at the 2015 MBA Games held last weekend at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton, a team from York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto defeated rivals from 21 other graduate business schools in a competition that tests academic, spirit and athletic prowess.

Schulich won for the sixth time since 2003, earning the right to play host to the Games in January of 2016. Teams from Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto and DeGroote placed second and third, respectively.

Well-travelled SFU student wins export award

As an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business in Burnaby, B.C., Rohith Manhas decided to take advantage of the international co-operative education opportunities offered by his school.

Even before he graduates this spring, his decision paid an unexpected dividend. Last November, the B.C. Export Awards recognized him as a postsecondary student who excels in international studies and contributes to the province's export potential.

Three years ago, then a 20-year-old second-year business administration student, Mr. Manhas spent four months in Mumbai, India, on an internship with the Canadian-India Business Council. While there, he worked as a management trainee for Wizcraft, an Indian event-production company, and also carried out research for the Surrey Board of Trade on export-import opportunities for local businesses in the B.C. city.

On one assignment for Wizcraft, he travelled to Chennai for the opening ceremony of the India Premier League of cricket season. "It was a very cool experience," he recalls. "All the big-shot Bollywood actors were on stage."

Mr. Manhas, who also studied in France in his third year of studies, says he learned the value of flexibility while working abroad. "Things don't always go as planned when you are in other countries," he says. Even something as familiar as a PowerPoint presentation, he says, must be tailored to the local market's expectations of what to include as content. "You have to have an open mind."

Mr. Manhas was also one of 30 students awarded $4,000 each in international business scholarships from Export Development Canada. Now 23 and about to graduate, he has landed a job with Accenture, the management consulting firm.

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