The University of Bolton held their first virtual careers fair through the use of Symplicity CareerHub in November and experienced a rise in student engagement as a result. The University of Bolton has been using CareerHub, which is referred to as StudentHub by the institution, since 2017 for delivering all careers and employability programs. When COVID-19 hit back in March, Julie Bateman, Head of Careers and Employability and Jenni Bates, Employer Engagement Consultant knew they needed to get a jump start on planning for a virtual fall semester. Bates said, “When we started evaluating our virtual careers fair options, budget was a big concern for us. We also wanted to use a platform the students were familiar with already and it wasn’t until we attended one of Symplicity’s weekly surgeries that we considered CareerHub. The support team showed us a great example of how another institution used CareerHub for this and that gave us the confidence we needed to start planning our own virtual fair.”
The result of the University of Bolton’s virtual careers fair was a massive increase in student logins and overall traffic within StudentHub. Bates noted that their virtual careers fair was “a well-polished and successful event. There were 10,000 student logins during the week of the fair and it was great for our institution to drive that student traffic into StudentHub and gain exposure to students who may have been previously unfamiliar with the platform.” Bateman reported that the students’ responses were overall positive, not just in the number of logins but in the ability to extend participation to students that may not have participated before. “The students enjoyed being able to access the virtual careers fair when it was suitable for them which helped extend our reach. Not all of our students are full-time so this was good to enable part-time students as well as students who might have a disability,” Bateman said, “All students could easily access it online and they didn’t have to physically come on campus. We are also planning on making all of the presentations and recordings from the fair available online so that students can access the information even if they couldn’t attend on the day of so we expect that will further expand our reach.”
For the University of Bolton, there were many benefits to hosting a virtual careers fair. For students, accessibility was key. For employers, there were several benefits including time savings as well as better engagement with students. With in-person events, employers have to commit to entire day or more when attending a careers fair but with a virtual careers fair, employers only had to commit to a couple hours. Additionally, employers enjoyed engaging with students who were well-prepared and genuinely interested in each company’s opportunities. Bates explained that “prior to the event, we set up info pages for each employer so students were able to investigate the companies that would be represented during the fair. As a result, employers felt more engaged with the students they were interacting with because the students interacting with them were very interested and informed about the positions they were recruiting for.” Included in the post-fair survey to employers from the Careers & Employability team was a question about whether employers would want to participate in more virtual careers fairs. To date, all of the employers have said yes.
When it comes to planning for 2021, the Careers & Employability team has already committed to hosting more virtual careers fairs in the spring. The success and the data gathered from the last fair is one of the main reasons why staff members are keen to hosting more fairs. “With CareerHub, we can demonstrate actual impact. The beauty of having an online event is that we can tell exactly how many people attended and you can drill down which students spoke with which employers. Whereas on campus, it’s usually a guesstimate,” Bateman said. By using CareerHub, the University of Bolton is able to measure the success of their virtual events and plan more accurately for future virtual events based on student data. Bates added, “I would highly recommend CareerHub because it’s an effective way of delivering careers opportunities and maintaining the employer-student relationship, even during a global pandemic.”