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Collaborate to crack careers fair success

13 / 05 / 2021Emily Dunn

Organising a careers fair can be a huge undertaking and that’s without a pandemic disrupting the way we work and preventing events from taking place in person. By joining forces with other universities instead of running your own fair, you as a careers service can save yourself both time and the hassle of deciding which tech platform works best, focusing instead on attracting exhibitors and helping your students get the most out of the day. 

This approach is also more efficient for employers who can reach a much larger group of students from multiple universities by attending just one event. And you can take advantage of there being no limit to the number of exhibitors, who can attend from far and wide. 

To show just how effective a collaborative approach can be, TARGETjobs Events teamed up with eight Welsh universities to create the All Wales Virtual Careers Fair. Some of these don’t run their own careers fairs, making the ability to team up with other universities even more valuable. 

Universities united 

The All Wales Virtual Careers Fair involved eight Welsh universities: Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff University, Glyndwr University, The Open University, the University of South Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. They had approached us at GTI to see if this was something we could help them with. 

GTI already had experience of running similar events: our TARGETjobs Virtual Careers Fair and National Pupillage Fair in the autumn comprised a similar format with ‘stands’ for students to communicate with employers and a webinar-style talks programme. Our events team had also successfully adapted long-running events such as IT’s not just for the boys! and Future Female Engineers to a virtual format. However, this was the first time we had delivered a virtual careers fair for multiple universities. 

A day to remember 

The fair was held on 1 March to coincide with St David’s Day, with the planning having begun before Christmas. At GTI we created a website, branding, a student information pack and marketing materials (in both English and Welsh), saving the universities time. They then used these to promote the fair to their students and to attract employers. 

he Platform we provided for the Fair was chosen to host the fair because it was easy to use, included video and text chat functionality, enabled exhibitors to customise their stands and allowed exhibitors and students to search for each other. GTI provided technical support to ensure the fair ran smoothly on the day. 

  • A total of 80 exhibitors had a virtual stand at which students could interact with employer representatives through one-to-one video chats and text chats. 

  • Each university ran a CV clinic in English and Welsh, allowing students to gain feedback on their CV from a careers adviser via screen-sharing. 

  • Nine talk slots spread throughout the day allowed each university careers service to provide a speaker on a topic of its choice – examples included ‘The career jungle gym: unconventional careers, future skills and the green economy’ and ‘Launching your graduate career in Wales’. This meant that the universities pooled their resources and contacts, allowing students to benefit from the collective knowledge of all eight universities. 

There were 2,447 registered attendees to the fair, across a range of degree subjects and years of study (with 39% graduating in 2021, 21% in 2022 and 15% in 2023). This translated to 2,406 views of the talks programme, 17,059 messages exchanged and 415 one-to-one meetings. 

Helping exhibitors adapt to virtual 

We were responsible for onboarding the exhibitors and students ahead of the fair, giving them all the information that they needed for the day. We ran a webinar and provided lots of video how-to guides. The biggest challenges we successfully overcame related to this. 

Firstly, the fair aimed to attract smaller regional businesses, not just larger graduate recruiters. Some of these were understandably unfamiliar with what a careers fair involved, let alone a virtual careers fair. We helped them to set up their virtual stand, ensuring they had the marketing collateral that was needed to feature on it such as videos and graphics. 

Secondly, employers (including those that were used to attending careers fairs) needed support to adapt to the virtual world. At an in-person fair, exhibitors generally wait for students to approach them at their stand and it’s common for students to discover a potential employer by chance while wandering around the venue. In contrast, online fairs require a deliberate choice to click through to an employer’s virtual stand and start a text or video chat, removing this element of serendipity. 

We know that students are often reluctant to start virtual conversations with employers, so we recommended that the employers searched for and approached students themselves to get the most out of the fair. We also encouraged students to be proactive in speaking to employers and to complete their profiles on the event platform so that employers could find them more easily. A pathway containing top tips to prepare for the fair and exercises to help students research employers and know what questions to ask was emailed to all students who had registered to attend the fair. 

A great success all round 

Llinos Carpenter, employer engagement manager at Cardiff University, says: ‘Not only did this give us the opportunity to collaborate with other universities in our principality, but it also gave recruiters bang for their buck during a difficult recruitment year by giving them access to all eight universities.  And the students seemed to really enjoy the virtual experience too! We’re going to do the same collaboration this autumn (2021) and are really expecting great attendance; with students back on campus, this virtual fair will enable us to offer a truly blended experience.’ 

If you’d be interested in working with us in a similar way in the future, get in touch here to find out more about how we can help. 

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