Findings from human resources firm Randstad shed some light on the job prospects for the coming years — and which skills will be most in demand for young job seekers.

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If you’re facing high school graduation this coming spring, or if you have a teenager who is about to pass this major milestone of life, you’re probably knee-deep in college applications, many of which are due in January or February. While many of these students may not have to declare a major right away, it might be a good idea to think ahead to careers that are more in demand for today’s employers.

Fortunately for these young job-seekers-to-be, human resources firm Randstad released its quarterly “Workmonitor” report last month, which polled employed workers, aged 18 to 65, in several countries to determine market trends. The results of this polling provide some insight into the overall confidence in the economy, the prospects of hiring in 2016 and the types of jobs that may be in demand for the coming year.

Confidence rises heading into 2016. First, the Workmonitor survey revealed some really good news for everyone: Most of the 400 employees surveyed in the United States (70 percent) said they are confident that the economy this year will be better that in 2015. Almost three-quarters of American respondents said their employer performed better financially in 2015 than in 2014, and more than 80 percent said their employer is likely to perform even better in 2016. This positive outlook is a stark contrast to the bleak outlook that many college students faced a few years ago, in the wake of the Great Recession.

Be sure to learn some STEM skills. Just under half of the U.S.-based respondents said their employers have an increasing need for skills involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and 75 percent suggest that more students should focus on a career involving STEM skills. In fact, 71 percent said they would put more of an emphasis on STEM careers if they were 18 years old again, and 73 percent would choose courses on digital or online subjects.

Finding talent will remain difficult. A little more than half (55 percent) of the U.S. respondents said they felt that their employer currently has trouble in finding the right talent, and expect this problem to become increasingly difficult this year.

Job mobility dips but remains high. In the fourth quarter of 2015, the Workmonitor’s Mobility Index fell by one index point to 114, meaning that slightly fewer workers said they expect to find another job within the next six months. However, the 114-point score fits the overall pattern of general growth in mobility since the gloomier days of late 2009, when the recession kept mobility low at 100 points. Also, the actual number of employees in the U.S. who changed jobs in the last six months went slightly down to 24 percent.

Perhaps these data are all signs that some normalcy is finally returning to the U.S. job market after several years in the wilderness. Incoming freshmen, take note.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at