How to arrange for universities to attend your school careers fair (and keep them coming back!)
Guest Blogger: Sophie Craven, Schools and Colleges Liaison Service, The University of Huddersfield
Universities welcome your invitations
Providing information and advice on higher education options is a core part of the day to day work that universities undertake with schools and colleges. In an increasingly competitive higher education landscape, universities are attending more careers fairs with a wider geographical reach than ever before.
The good news for teachers and school staff who are tasked with organising a careers fair, is that universities do welcome your invitations!
Getting universities on board - my top tips
Get in there early - Provide as much notice as possible to ensure, from a practical perspective, that higher education staff are not already booked up with other events. It is a good idea to email with a ‘save-the-date’ invitation with further information to follow. Some schools and colleges send their invitations up to a year in advance! However, before setting a date it would be a good idea to check the dates of other events that could clash. For example the Open Day dates for local universities that you would like to attend.
It’s all in the details - Provide as many details as possible about your event to help the institution decide on the relevance of the event to them and their remit - and to enable them to send the most appropriate person to take part. For example, timings, if you would like a talk in the programme too, location, parking arrangements, the age groups and numbers attending, as well as any specific subject focus, are all important details I would recommend you to include.
Be realistic when planning the event- If you have smaller numbers of students then perhaps plan a shorter half day fair and don’t be over ambitious with the numbers of exhibitors you invite to attend. You could also consider running an event jointly with other local schools as increased student numbers may boost exhibitor attendance.
Provide a warm welcome to your exhibitors - refreshments are very much appreciated. For full day events, and if budgets allow for it, you may also offer lunch for exhibitors as well. Where feasible, you could provide parking and assist with setup – many schools make use of their students to act as ambassadors to assist and direct visitors.
Preparation - Ensure students are well prepared prior to the careers fair so they come along armed with questions and they're ready to engage with exhibitors.
Evaluate - Conduct an evaluation of the event and where possible act on the feedback given to improve the future experience for exhibitors and your students.
In the first instance, your first point of contact should be Schools/Education Liaison teams at universities. Even if your event has a specific subject focus, these colleagues should be able to put you in touch with the relevant academic or subject staff as well.
Careers Fairs are the bread and butter of a university schools and college’s liaison work and for most of us in higher education (I include myself here) we thoroughly enjoy meeting young people at these events and providing them with advice and guidance to help them in their future decision-making. A well planned and executed careers fair can be a truly rewarding experience and one that we in higher education institutions look forward to attending year-on-year. Good luck with yours!