Employment fair goes virtual with new platform

Career Services held their first part-time employment fair Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The fair took place virtually on the platform Handshake, which Career Services switched to in July.

“(Handshake) is more interactive for the students, and it’s also very convenient for the employers,” said Bill Stec, the interim director of Career Services. “(Employers) can select any university and post their positions.”

Stec said he was con dent the new platform would increase job opportunities available to SVSU students.

“[With Handshake,] we’re going to get more job postings than ever before,” he said.

Stec said it usually takes about a year to launch new platforms, but Handshake was launched in only three months.

One challenge that Career Services faced was getting everyone trained for the new platform.

For virtual fairs, employers can set up sessions to speak with students. Similar to in-person fairs, students were able to see employer information ahead of time.

“As soon a (student) registers for a fair, they can immediately start registering for sessions … as long as the employer has scheduled ahead of time,” said Thomas Barnikow, the interim associate director of Career Services.

Because the fair was virtual, students had to sign up for group sessions.

“This is different than the in-person fairs because the in-person ones have more of an open- door policy,” Barnikow said.

A total of 24 employers created sessions for Wednesday’s fair, and 124 students registered to attend.

Ninety of those students attended sessions.

Stec said the attendance numbers were lower than usual because the pandemic created many barriers for both participation and hiring.

“(Usually) we market in-person to all the restaurants and retail stores and non-pro t organizations because they don’t always come to our other fairs,” Stec said. “A lot of those companies don’t want to look into (student) hires right now because they need workers all the way through the holiday season.”

SVSU is leading other universities in the state, Stec said, with offered positions increasing from 8,000 to nearly 35,000.

“We were the first ones in Michigan to have this virtual fair through Handshake,” he said. “We were the guinea pigs.”

Barnikow said the fair went smoothly, with only a few technical difficulties.

“We’ll take some of the feedback and lessons we learn from (the fair) … and implement them (in future employment fairs),” he said. “We expect that every time we do one of these (virtual) fairs in the future, we will do it better than the last time.”

Feedback will come from the analytics Handshake provides and a survey sent out to students who attended.

“It’s kind of fun being in this beta stage … and hopefully we will have sufficient changes made within three months,” Barnikow said. “We definitely appreciate the employers and students for making the best of the situation we are in right now.”

The seven remaining employment fairs this academic year will also take place virtually on Handshake.

The next fair is for accounting and finance students Wednesday, Sept. 16.

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