First-ever virtual careers expo a roaring success

Almost 28 000 job applications processed through the innovative platform.

The South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) partnered with 23 South African universities to host the first-ever VirtualGradExpo this year. As the first collaborative event of its kind in South Africa, this online event sought to fill the gap left by the inability to host in-person fairs on campus. It gave students the opportunity to meet and interact with potential employers and find job opportunities in one virtual exhibition hall – at a time and place that was convenient for them. 

The fair achieved its goal of helping students to find graduate opportunities for 2021. Already, 55.6 percent of students who attended the fair have applied for opportunities they found there, and a further 31.2 percent have already been invited to participate in employers’ next selection phase. In addition, 16.8 percent had received offers to join graduate programmes, gain work experience or take up a bursary or scholarship within a week of the event.

According to Cathy Sims, Executive Director of SAGEA: “A virtual career fair provided the perfect opportunity for us to ensure that no student was left behind because of a lack of access to personal and professional networks. With the support we received from our university members and graduate employers across industry sectors, we were able to give students across the country access to the most comprehensive selection of graduate opportunities our organisation has seen in one place.”

When South Africa entered national lockdown on 26 March, employers, students and university career advisors alike were concerned about how the class of 2020 would secure graduate employment opportunities, particularly given that South African universities had not been able to host career fairs as they usually do between March and August every year.

“These fairs are consistently ranked in the top five sources of career information by successful graduate recruits participating in The SAGEA Candidate Insights Survey, but with campuses closed and strict social distancing regulations in place for the foreseeable future, students would be unable to access them,” said Cathy.

The VirtualGradExpo was a huge success with 34,492 registrants, of which 73.9 percent were undergraduates and 7 percent were postgraduates. The fair showcased not only graduate programmes and graduate jobs but work experience, internship and vacation programmes. For students looking to continue studying in 2021, the fair also featured postgraduate study opportunities, bursaries and scholarships.
 
With 121 booths and almost 28,000 job applications processed through the platform, the VirtualGradExpo can be hailed as a huge success.

“A platform such as the one we used attracted the most diverse group of students that truly represented the demographics of our country.  It really levelled the playing field and went a long way to ensuring the graduating class of 2020 wouldn’t fall behind in entering the job market. For employers, it served to keep their graduate intake and development cycles on track, too, and we’re very proud of both these achievements,” said Cathy. 

The platform remains open for students to access information and apply for opportunities, and registrations have reached more than 40,000.