Career Center Booms Despite COVID
Like most groups and services, the UNCP Career Center has had to learn the new virtual world that has become the norm. To supply students with career fairs in a safe manner, the career center has adopted the use of virtual fairs.
Bradley Merritt, Director of Career Center, reflects on how COVID-19 has effected the attendance and participation of career fairs and the growth and benefits of virtual fairs.
The Allied Health Career Fair held in January, 2020 . The event took place in the University Annex building. Image/Bradley Merritt.
The benefits of the virtual fairs are easy to see. Merritt points out that in the Fall semester of 2019, the Career Center hosted three fairs with a total of 70 employers and 300 students. But in the fall semester of 2020, the career center hosted three fairs with a total of 178 employers and 2,995 students in participation. That number is expected to grow this semester.
So, what can be attributed to this boom in employer participation? The lack of travel, Jillian Nerenberg, UNCP’s Assistant Director of Career Counseling, says. Because companies don’t have to pay for travel and hotels, the virtual fairs help them save time and money while connecting with hundreds of applicants. It’s a win-win situation for the employers.
Nerenberg also points out the positive aspect for students. Highlighting that nontraditional students, such as commuter students, with full or part-time jobs, or students who were online before COVID-19, can participate when their schedules previously made it impossible.
Merritt also wants to reassure students that the process of the virtual fairs is a simple one. Students have an option of signing up for the remaining career fairs, each one specific to a different group of majors. After the sign-up link, students will be given a link to the employers who will be available. For each employer, a student signs up to meet them with a link that will allow them access to each employer. Students are allowed to switch between the links as many times as they like during the fair.
Merritt and Nerenberg both said that in a post-covid environment the Career Center will likely focus on a hybrid interaction career fair. Allowing students to meet employers face-to-face while also keeping it available to students who have been given this access for the first time and the hybrid fairs will continue to attract employers who may not be able to travel for the fair.
The remaining career fairs will take place on February 18 with a focus on government, nonprofit and volunteer opportunities, March 5 for STEM advancements and employers, March 25 focusing on business and finance, April 1 for communications and art programs and careers, and the last one of the semester on April 23 for careers in education.