05/25/2011 02:21 pm ET | Updated Jul 25, 2011

Good News for 2011 College Grads: Businesses Want You

Graduation is always an electric time of year as students celebrate what they've accomplished as well as the excitement of beginning the next chapter of their lives.

This year, students and their families have one more reason to smile: businesses are hiring. A national survey of businesses released today finds that three out of four companies are planning to hire new graduates in the coming year and 23% plan to hire more graduates than they did last year.

This is yet another sign that the country is recovering from the recession, albeit slowly. There is still much uncertainty about what all of the numbers truly mean, but there is a general sense that things are improving and this new survey of U.S. employers validates that point. Only 12% of companies surveyed say they will hire fewer recent graduates this year than last. And more good news for graduates: companies located in every region of the country are looking to hire members of the class of 2011: 77% in the South; 76% in the West; 72% in the Northeast; and 70% in the Midwest all plan to hire new graduates.

And that is not all that the Class of 2011 has to be happy about. The survey asked businesses what skills they are looking for in 2011 graduates and here is what they said:

• While writing ability and analytical thought are highly desired skills, companies are also seeking new employees with strong technological, creative and artistic abilities. Over two-thirds of employers consider experience using the newest technologies and creative ability as valuable in new employees.

• 45% of employers report that experience with interactive media is valuable, 32% desire someone with demonstrated web design skills, 28% say artistic or graphic design ability is valuable, and 25% say video and audio production ability is valuable.

• Traditional companies that are not related to artistic fields report that they are very likely to be hiring or contracting for web design, multimedia, graphic design, photography, animation and other arts backgrounds. When asked to rate the likelihood that they will hire full-time employees or consultants with specific backgrounds, over 50% of employers revealed that they are at least somewhat likely to hire an employee or consultant with a design education or background in the next two years.

What a difference a few decades make. In today's tech-driven global economy, companies are looking for graduates with a variety of creative and technical skills, very different from the skills that were expected of graduates just 15-20 years ago. With technology impacting nearly every area of our lives today, companies from every sector need employees with technological and creative backgrounds. Ten years ago the tech department for most companies was in a different room or maybe a different building. Today, there are employees with those skills in every department, from the ground floor to executive management.

Ten years ago, who would have thought web design and interactive media would be a quality that nearly one-third of businesses valued in their employees? And yet in another 5 years, it isn't hard to imagine a workplace where those skills are an absolute necessity.

At the Academy of Art University, students not only graduate this week, but many will officially launch their job search, as some of the world's most innovative companies convene on campus to meet with students about potential jobs. Executives from Zynga, American Greetings, Cartoon Network, Pixar, Apple, Lucasfilm, DreamWorks, and Electronic Arts, among others, will view student portfolios and determine how their companies could benefit from hiring these graduates as part of our Annual "Spring Show." This is the moment our students have been working towards from that first day they started their academic careers and we are proud of how far they have come.

As graduation ceremonies take place around the country over the next month and we hear the words of wisdom from speakers about the promise of the future, we as a country need to think about the 21st century hi-tech global economy -- and the opportunity it brings us as a country to turn things around. Tech innovators in American communities have the ability to drive our country back into the forefront of the world economy. We have to continue graduating students who have mastered the skills of the 21st century -- the "must-have" skills for businesses of all sizes that will be hiring in the years to come. These are exciting times -- for the Class of 2011 and for the future of our country.