Virtual Job Fair Connects Students and Industry
Like so many other things in 2020, once the global pandemic hit, Laurie Grove (Director of Career Services at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology) knew that the annual job fair would have to move online. She began researching companies, even going so far as to enroll in a few fairs as a student and vendor herself before settling on virtual career fair platform Brazen. “What I love about Brazen is that they offer video—not just texting, not just chatting… The video piece was really important to our employers,” said Grove.
Thaddeus Stevens College was ready to go, hosting two Virtual Job Fairs in the spring of 2021. In Grove’s words: “It was kind of unbelievable, actually. It was so much better attended and well-received than we could have ever anticipated.”
The February 24th event (which half of Thaddeus Stevens College students registered for; the other half registered for the March 31 event) attracted 351 students seeking to connect with potential employers for internships and full-time positions. Eighty companies participated with over 150 employer representatives. In all, more than 1,458 video and text chats were completed over the course of the event. And everyone wanted even more time together.
Using Brazen, employers set up their virtual booth space ahead of time, filling out their profiles with company information, links to current job openings, social media channels, and even photos of which representatives will be available to chat at the event. Students register to attend the virtual fair, and can then log in to explore employer booths well ahead of the big event, giving them time to research which companies they want to network with.
The biggest change that Career Services made between the first virtual job fair and the second was increasing the amount of time that a student and employer could connect. “For the first one, we set the chat time for five minutes, based on employers' feedback from our face-to-face events,” said Grove. “Employers said, we probably aren't going to talk for more than five minutes with any one student, because that's typically what we do. We get their information and then we schedule interviews later.” However, both students and employer feedback after the first virtual job fair showed a desire to increase that number. For the March event, Grove’s team changed the 5 minute allocation to 30 minutes. “I think it's going to make them feel like they can actually have more of a conversation,” said Grove. “The outcome is that you're going to have more, maybe intentional, and detailed conversations this time. In fact, it might even be a scenario where you see employers interviewing students on the spot.”
What might Thaddeus Stevens College job fairs look like once the pandemic comes to a close? While everyone is looking forward to being face-to-face when possible, Grove foresees a hybrid approach moving forward due to the unique benefits online events provide. “It gives us more flexibility and it gives the employers more flexibility to attend more events. They can attend this virtual event from anywhere. It doesn't matter where they are, physically,” she said. Ultimately, more flexibility for employers leads to more opportunities for Thaddeus Stevens College graduates.
In the more immediate future, the College will experiment with offering smaller, more industry-focused virtual events through Brazen, including an April “mini-job fair” for the Masonry program that will feature 10-15 companies. “Overall, we're just kind of blown away by it. We're super, super happy with the results,” said Grove.