CAREERS: Virtual fair proves a huge success

Sixth former ANNA MILLIONS says she and other students enjoyed the many benefits of our virtual careers fair, which many preferred to the usual physical event. Organiser BOB WALKER reports on how it all went, and discusses some valuable feedback

MANY students feel the virtual nature of our recent careers fair gave way to an even more insightful experience than the in-person events we are accustomed to.

The lack of time pressure allowed students to take their time in reading and digesting material; the live chat function enabled us to ask detailed questions, something which is not always possible at busy, physical fairs.

A student I spoke to recently was impressed at the sheer range of resources available to her and her parents were happy to avoid the logistical issues involved in getting to school!

Anna Birbeck is the director of high school operations at Novva Tech, the organisation which helped to run the event. Speaking on the fair, she said: "There are many benefits of a virtual fair. For students, they can be exposed to more opportunities than in a physical event; because universities and organisations do not need to travel, there are no geographical boundaries which means a wider variety of exhibitors. At NOVVA we believe virtual fairs are here to stay because they contribute to a healthier planet by reducing CO2 emissions, they offer more opportunities and provide greater flexibility."

Careers advisor Mrs Locke is also very proud of this year’s careers fair. She said ‘We were delighted to be able to offer a new angle on our annual careers and higher education evening, running this for a first time as a virtual event in conjunction with NOVVA. Using this very professional platform enabled the event to be accessible to all of our students and parents from the comfort of home, and indeed facilitated continued access to documents, such as prospectuses and company apprenticeship schemes.

“Feedback on the evening confirmed that this was well received and a popular way for students and parents alike to communicate with participating organisations and to be able to get excellent careers advice and information.’

COVID-19 and the subsequent further lockdowns did not deter the careers department from hosting the very popular annual higher education and careers fair, writes Mr Walker.

Restrictions meant a creative, high-tech approach was called for. Holding this event virtually had many benefits including students and parents taking part without meeting face-to-face, all brochures and documents could be downloaded and read at any time and questions put to exhibitors could be answered during and after the event.

More than 30 businesses, colleges and universities from North Yorkshire, the UK, Canada and America kindly took part in this event which took eight months to organise.

More than 200 students and even more parents took part, with well over 3,500 messages exchanged between exhibitors, parents and students.

The overall feedback from parents, students and exhibitors was, on the whole, positive and here are just a few of the comments:

Feedback from a parent

These events are really hard to organise virtually and I feel that you provided a very balanced evening. My daughter didn't gain as much as she would have in person as there is no opportunity to 'hang around a stand and listen in'. This is obviously very hard to replicate virtually. On the other hand, we had a super chat with the university representative from Vermont and I'm sure that would not have happened if we'd been in Ripon. She gave some great advice, and my daughter is now thinking about a degree that involves a gap year in Canada or USA. Perhaps a mixture of virtual and real post-Covid would give students that opportunity to speak directly to international stands.

Feedback from an exhibitor

Really busy event with over 40 questions to our staff. Over 90 students accessed our brochures or watched videos and questions were well informed, polite and insightful.

Feedback from a student

Under the unusual circumstances I think you did a marvellous job, and it was actually calmer than looking around the stands in school! Thank you for providing a great experience for your students and families.

This was the first such event at Ripon Grammar School and many lessons were learnt. Without the wonderful support of local, national and international organisations this event would not have been possible.

I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to them all. I am also really grateful for all the constructive criticism given by all participants and these comments will be very useful when developing other virtual events in the future and, hopefully, making events like these even better.