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University's first virtual careers fair a great success

Student on laptop

Over the past few months, our Student Services team has been working tirelessly to support our students through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will share a few highlights of their recent activities over the next few days. Yesterday we talked about a recent Careers event hosted by female BAME professionals, and here, we highlight the success of the University's first ever virtual careers fair.

The Graduate Recruitment and Internship Festival takes place every year, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's even had to take place virtually.

Held online over 10-12 June 2020, the fair enabled students and recent graduates to explore graduate roles, placements, internships and volunteering at a range of employers, as well as further study and training.

The event was a big transition from anything Careers have run in the past. The event itself is fairly new, with this being only its second year (the original Graduate Recruitment and Internship Festival was held on campus in 2019, on the last day of the academic year). Despite doubts about its timing, the Festival was a real success, with 406 students and 36 employers taking part, including Google, FDM, Aldi, Splunk and Mondelez. The Careers Fair Plus app had strong engagement across the event, and nearly 200 telephone chats took place between students and prospective employers. Recordings are still available to access on Careers 24/7 on Blackboard, as well as through this dedicated Essentials page.

When the pandemic took hold at the beginning of March, the team had to quickly make difficult decisions about the event, with lots of uncertainty around how it would be organised and structured.  

After looking at the potential options, three existing tools were utilised to provide a virtual fair:

  • The Career Fair Plus app, as the main platform, had been used at several fairs over the last few years. A previously unused feature was introduced to allow students to book 10-minute appointments with employers to have a one-to-one chat.
  • Blackboard (Careers 24/7), hosted employer webinars, Q&A sessions and careers workshops.
  • MyJobsOnline, the University's online careers and jobs portal enabled students to browse webinars and book their webinar places.

Webinars were spread over three days to reduce the number of clashes, with one-to-one employer chats scheduled on one day for simplicity.

Having this year's Festival being completely online meant students had to actively engage with employer information before the event, and as a result, students were likely more prepared before speaking with employers. Employer details were viewed a total of 8,680 times.

It's difficult to do a like-for-like comparison with last year's event, but ultimately, more students engaged with the employer information than did so in person last year. With the app, webinars and one-to-one chats, there were clear levels of engagement from students that were perhaps less visible at an in-person event. With that perspective, a virtual fair provides more insight into student activity than ever before.

Careers' autumn fairs will also take place virtually, drawing on this experience as a model. Dates are soon to be announced, but the usual careers fairs delivered will run over several days, rather than a single day
Some of our Employer feedback

"It was my first virtual fair and I was extremely impressed with arrangements throughout, thanks!"

"Very well organised, felt confident delivering the webinar/using the app due to the excellent support from the Careers Service team, thank you very much."

Student Services

Careers is part of our Student Services team, who you can find more about on this Essentials webpage. You can reach the team by emailing careers@reading.ac.uk or calling 0118 378 8359.

The Student Services Reception team are continuing to answer questions from students, and can be contacted by emailing studenthelp@reading.ac.uk or by calling 0118 378 5555.

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