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A Career Event Reimagined

Face to face career events create an atmosphere for liaison personnel, presenters and attendees to have a personal connection and shared learning. They also provide opportunities for informal networking and showcase a wide range of different career options. The format of the St Cuthbert’s and Auckland Grammar School annual career event

In previous years had an opening keynote speaker, a career fair attended by 50 different tertiary and private training providers with concurrent sessions for students and their parents with the aim of inspiring, and developing knowledge about different career fields.

The initial planning for an event of this scale had begun at the end of the previous year when a date was set for the event; this was done in collaboration with senior management staff.

Subsequently, a planning morning in October provided a scaffold around how the event would run and which providers and academic presenters would be invited. Critical to the success of the event was having a mix of sessions which covered popular career areas, for example, medicine and law, as well as providing opportunities for students to gain understanding about new fields.

An email was sent to liaison people with a wish list of presenters – this list of presenters that had been generated on a planning day came from speakers who had been showcased at update days and also who came from areas that were perceived as being areas that students would be interested in. The importance of choosing a range of speakers from a variety of fields and ensuring that all universities are represented needs to be stressed. This creates a sense of inclusion from all the universities and showcases academic personnel who can talk in general terms about their field and their research, as well as specifically about their programmes. It also gives students an opportunity to open their minds to different possibilities at the different universities, and presents all universities on equal footing.

As the lockdown became imminent early this year, it was clear that the event was not going to be able to run in its previous form. The question faced with challenging times this year, was how an event that had provided such positive feedback in the past and was a highlight for many in the community, could be reimagined. The answer was a ‘virtual event’.

In March it became clear that it would no longer be possible to run the event as it had been in previous years. The option to cancel the event was not ever considered. Instead it was reimagined as a virtual event. Presenters were given virtual rooms to provide on-line sessions, and the resulting event was highly successful on many levels.

The issues that had to be overcome in holding a virtual event included gaining full support from our IT team, understanding the platform that would be used so that we as a school had control over the event, gaining support from the prefect team and subsequently training them to be the room hosts, and seeking keynote speakers who would be able to engage audiences and set the scene for the different evenings.

In all, three evening sessions were provided, with 20 timetabled presentations in each session. Students and parents were able to join sessions of their choice, and approximately 1000 participants joined each evening. The event mimicked the original event in many ways and yet was different in the timing and organisation. Feedback from previous evenings had shown that many wished that they could have attended more of the sessions. As a result of being able to record each session we now have a bank of videoed sessions that students and parents can explore in their own time and place.

Challenging times produce inspirational solutions, and the virtual careers event held at St. Cuthbert’s College in conjunction with Auckland Boys’ Grammar School certainly embraced a spirit of cooperation, teamwork and innovation in order to create a successful outcome.

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