Networking Goes Online

NORTHFORCE (NF), the Northland’s online talent portal serving jobseekers and employers in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, has teamed with CareerForce (CF) to coordinate virtual career fairs for area jobseekers. The most recent event took place last Thursday: 

  • Transportation Career Fair Employers included Thompson Gas, Esko Express, and Bernick’s Duluth/Superior. Virtual fair participants also learned about training opportunities, including commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, as well as available tuition assistance.

Recent events also included a job fair hosted by the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training

A look at one of the virtual career booths at NEMOJT’s Fall 2020 Virtual Career Fair is pictured above.

Virtual Networking Opportunities

NF’s Desiree Yourczek at a socially-distanced, in-person networking event earlier this autumn.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered plans for events that annually take place at locations such as the University of Minnesota Duluth and University of Wisconsin Superior (Head of the Lakes Job & Internship Fair), or the Miners Memorial Building in Virginia, MN (Iron Range Job Fair).

These events typically attract hundreds of candidates. Until in-person events can resume, virtual career events are filling the networking gap. 

The virtual events are structured to include breakout sessions where focused groups of candidates get the chance to meet with employers that interest them and ask questions.

This approach contrasts starkly with the traditional job fair format, where employers spend an entire day traveling to the event location, setting up their booths, and handing out materials to attendees, few of whom will follow up with an application or interview for open positions.

Unexpected Advantages

Contrary to expectations, virtual job fairs have so far attracted relatively small numbers of candidates. 

“We definitely expected a ton of candidates after unemployment rates shot up during the height of the COVID-19 crisis in March and April,” said Laura Nilsen, Northspan & NORTHFORCE Program Operations Specialist.

Despite low candidate attendance, employers that have participated in the virtual job fairs so far have expressed their satisfaction with the experience, highlighting advantages such as the opportunity to talk to smaller groups of candidates who have a high level of interest in their organization, as well as the one-hour time commitment (compared to an entire day of travel and setup required for traditional job fairs).

“Virtual career fairs excite me, HR professionals should do this more! I have more engagement with job seekers in the virtual space, this is a whole new world,” shared Shayla Drake, HR/Payroll Coordinator at Aftenro.

More to Come

Plans are also underway to host less formal virtual coffee sessions with regional employers looking to hire. Details on future events will be announced on CF’s Virtual & Interactive Services for Career Seekers Page and on NF’s Events Page.

Recordings of past virtual events are archived here

Like in-person job fairs, these online events are one of the best opportunities for jobseekers to connect with area employers and familiarize themselves with the hiring landscape in Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin. All interested candidates are encouraged to attend.

Find information on past and future events plus signup links here.

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