Eoghan Holdahl—Staff Writer
In previous years at this time, Dordt has held a combined job fair for engineering, agriculture, and business majors. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, a change of venue occurred.
Instead of the De Yager Student Activity Center, students received opportunities to meet prospective employers through Handshake and other online platforms. Although not the original plan, the jump in COVID-19 cases on campus and in the community made the Career Development office rethink the in-person job fair.
“We started the planning already back in July.” Amy Westra said. “Everyone definitely preferred on campus and in-person, but if that wasn’t an option then this was their second best.”
Westra serves as one of the two members in the Career Development Center at Dordt, which aids students in finding employment and gaining experience in their field. Their hosting of the three separate programs of at a job fair has worked in previous years since many companies use internships and job openings in at least two of the three fields. This year, however, each of the departments could afford to hold their own job fair as employers do not have to pay travel costs in order to come to Dordt.
“It’s really cost effective to do it virtually” Gary De Vries, the agriculture department chair, said. “When it’s virtual their time is time, but they don’t have any of those other expenses.”
In addition to its economic ease, other benefits to a virtual career fair mitigated the downsides. De Vries pointed out that companies who previously considered it impractical to attend the Dordt job fair could join in the virtual event.
“We’re going to have more [companies] than normal at … our fair,” De Vries said.
As of October 15th, only the engineering fair has taken place. Some of the students who attended, such as Bennett Marstal, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, found the event edifying and the platform user friendly.
Some struggles for the attendants persisted, though.
“One morning we had four employers that didn’t have any of their one-on-one sessions taken by students.” Westra said “The employers had put a qualification on their one-on-one sessions which excluded all of our students from being able to sign up.”
Because Dordt only classifies their students by major, not emphasis, certain platforms would not allow students to sign up for the sessions. The platform Handshake only allowed engineers with a certain emphasis (like mechanical) to sign up, so none of Dordt’s engineering students were considered viable candidates for discussion.
“We had a work around planned for that… three of the five were able to fix it—we got it taken care of no problem. Two of them we ended up just running it through Zoom.” Westra said. “Still worked, just not as seamless as we would have liked it to be.”
Companies, students, and faculty have all expressed similar views: everyone is learning as they go, and in-person job fairs are usually preferable.
Joel Van Den Brink, the engineering manager for Link Manufacturing, represented one of the local businesses present at the job fair.
“It’s good to be able to connect even though we aren’t able to do it in-person,” Van Den Brink said.
The agriculture job fair is scheduled for October 23rd from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The business job fair remains to be scheduled.