Employability

How could Careers Fairs evolve?

By Owen Firth on October, 22 2021

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Owen Firth

Owen is the founder and CEO of Readygrad and is a passionate advocate for graduate employability. He and the Readygrad team are focused on changing the lives of graduates through employability training and work experience opportunities. Prior to Readygrad, Owen co-founded and ran Gradability and Performance Education, both dedicated to improving career outcomes of international students. His earlier career included starting a recruitment business, finance roles in IT and PwC. Owen has an MBA from AGSM and is a Chartered Accountant.

Careers fairs have long been key events for universities to provide direct employer contact for students and hopefully generate job outcomes for them. They have been a staple part of the annual calendar providing students and employers with the opportunity to communicate and impress one another.

But with the pandemic stopping the annual hamster wheel of activity, we wonder what the future of careers fairs will be and what alternatives may surface.

There are certainly some limitations of the traditional careers fair model including:

  • They are highly resource-intensive for employers who have to provide typically two or more staff members over 1-2 days across 20 - 30 campuses. This can easily amount to more than 100 person-days even before the thousands of graduate applications begin to flow! With the size of many graduate recruitment teams reduced in the last few years, this is an increasingly difficult investment to make.
  • It is an untargeted process. How does an employer know if the student walking past is right for them before they invest 10 minutes pitching their organisation? How does the student know how to select which employers to speak with? Some fairs have the opportunity to set up pre-planned meetings but many do not.
  • It is hard for employers to meaningfully differentiate themselves in 5-10 minutes. How does an employer engage meaningfully with a student when there are 10 students lined up behind them? How does an employer stand out for the right reasons amongst the rows of identical booths?

These will likely be issues graduate recruiters will be considering in 2022 as they consider how to allocate their diminished resources. They will no doubt be wanting to find the most efficient and effective ways to tell their stories to students that they want to target.

So how could careers fairs evolve to better meet the needs of employers and students? With mixed feedback from online careers fairs that were hastily put together in 2020 and 2021, it does not seem that they are the answer at this point.

From our vantage point, sitting between universities and employers, we see the opportunity for a fresh approach that is a win-win for all stakeholders. And, most significantly, also moves the needle on graduate employability.

How? If we rethink the careers fair as a career development forum for students delivered by employers. Instead of employers standing at booths for days, they deliver targeted sessions that advance the employability of attendees whilst also giving them insight into their employer proposition. Employers commit to one hour per university (not 1-2 days) and get to tell a deeper story once (rather than the same 5-10 minute pitch over and over again).

Students not only get a better insight into each organisation but they also walk away from a few days with valuable employability knowledge from the content delivered by the employers. Instead of organising booths, universities can work with employers to agree on the most relevant content for each employer to deliver.

If employers still want to make student connections on campus, they can pre-select those they want to target using a range of online technologies, and hold more focused group or individual discussion sessions.

For the university, it is a neat way to evolve traditional careers fairs into a more attractive proposition to employers and students, whilst also solving the challenge of delivering increased employability training with often diminishing budgets!

 

If you’d like help to reimagine your careers fairs and/or industry engagement models, we are ready to assist you.

 

Or if you have any comments on this article or other creative ideas, we’d love to hear them. You can submit your comments below or contact our Education Partnerships Manager: Katherine.underwood@readygrad.com.au.

 

Regards,

Owen Firth

Chief Employability Officer

owen.firth@readygrad.com.au

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