In early May, EAB surveyed our career services partners to learn about the challenges they currently face and how they are changing their services to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the four key trends we uncovered from the 107 survey responses from public and private institutions located across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Trend #1: Career services leaders are overwhelmingly concerned about supporting students who experienced rescinded job and internship offers due to the pandemic
Seventy-five percent of respondents cited helping students who experienced a rescinded job or internship offer as one of the greatest challenges their career services team currently faces. According to a Handshake student survey conducted in March, 23% of students with a secured internship had the offer rescinded. As students navigate a challenging job market, career services offices are stepping up to find new ways to serve students still looking for career opportunities.
To better support these students, Carnegie Mellon University shared in the EAB survey that they are in the process of developing a summer professional development series for students who lost or were not able to obtain a summer internship or research experience. The professional development series is being developed in partnership with employers and campus partners. Trinity University in San Antonio shared that they organized a grassroots effort to identify companies and non-profits that have short-term, summer “micro-internship” opportunities for students to develop skills and competencies in lieu of canceled summer internships. The initiative, known as TigerWorks, identifies opportunities in the university’s metropolitan area and other locations from which the university draws many of its students.
Trend #2: Despite a high need for career services, leaders are worried about maximizing student engagement and mindshare given the current environment
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The coronavirus has taken a considerable toll on students’ mental health, leaving some students feeling discouraged due to the current economic climate and not focusing on their career needs. Career services staff are also struggling to engage students due to equity issues, such as students’ family responsibilities and the lack of reliable internet access.
To better engage students, the University of Maryland, College Park shared the College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences Undergraduate Programs recently sent a 3-question survey to their majors asking if they had concerns or needed any resources. The survey invited students to respond by email, which enabled the college to connect with students who may have not made an appointment otherwise. At Concordia College in Moorhead, career services hosted a Zoom panel discussion with alumni who graduated during the 2008 financial crisis to share ideas and hope for job prospects during challenging times. The panel discussion helped engage students with a set of alumni panelists who understand the unique challenges 2020 graduates face.
Trend #3: While career services leaders are reimagining services for all constituents, they are particularly focused on transforming undergraduate services
Fifty-four percent of respondents plan to change services for undergraduate students a great deal; an additional 43% plan some change to undergraduate student services. The portion of respondents planning to change services a great deal for other audiences is slightly lower: 45% for employers, 34% for graduate students, and 22% for alumni. Unsurprisingly, respondents plan to change offerings for undergraduate students more than any other group, as the same institutions cited undergraduate students as the constituency they are most concerned about serving (82 percent). To better serve undergraduates, the University of Delaware shared that they created a virtual job shadow program for students to learn about professions and receive career-related advice through 1:1 virtual informational interviews with employers and alumni.
Trend #4: Transitioning more offerings, especially career fairs, to a virtual environment is key for Fall 2020
Many respondents plan to move career fairs, in-class presentations, and networking to a virtual format for Fall 2020, or re-vamp their current virtual offerings. Fifty-five percent of institutions do not currently host virtual career fairs but plan to in Fall 2020; another 25 percent currently host virtual career fairs but plan to re-vamp them. Similarly, 36 percent of institutions do not currently host in-class presentations virtually, but plan to in Fall 2020; 35 percent plan to re-vamp their current virtual in-class presentations.
While moving services to a virtual environment presents challenges, it also presents an opportunity to innovate services and meet students where they are in education’s “new normal.” For example, the University of Toronto Scarborough shared that they reimagined virtual career engagement by hosting Get Hired, a 3-day virtual conference for graduating students and recent alumni with keynote speakers, an employer panel, and mock interviews. The conference yielded 550 participants and drew double the typical participation of an in-person event.