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Friday, October 30, 2020
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Students & Youth

University career centres pivot to support students during pandemic

As soon as it became clear that everything was changing and that students and staff could no longer meet on campus, university career centres quickly moved their operations online. In what felt like lightning speed, offices set up remote appointments, drop ins and workshops. Using a range of technology options (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Teams and the good old-fashioned phone call), career centres made sure that students could continue to speak with career advisors without needing to be physically in the same place.

Beyond just the move from on campus to remote, university career centres have also been assessing what else is possible. While moving our standard services online addresses some of what students need, there are also a host of new questions and concerns specific to the impacts of the pandemic. Career centres are quickly creating new offerings to provide more targeted support during this challenging time. I reached out to colleagues to pull together  examples of creative new offerings.

Memorial University, Newfoundland (Jennifer Browne)

Career staff at Memorial University have created a Guide to Financial Supports and Employment Programs. This one-stop shop is an overview of resources that are available to the Memorial University community during the COVID-19 pandemic and include on-campus, off-campus, local and national funding and employment opportunities. A Virtual Job Fair is planned for May 11-22 to make sure students know that even with all the disruption, there are still jobs out there, and to provide opportunities for direct connections with employers. Planning is also under way for a career planning workshop series for incoming students, who are not always a group of students who access the career centre before the start of September classes.

McGill University, Quebec (Darlene Hnatchuk)

McGill’s Career Planning Service is piloting a Job Search Resiliency online discussion group. This discussion group will help students cope with the uncertainty of employment opportunities and hiring practices in a time that requires an unprecedented degree of adaptability, creativity and courage. The goal is for students to feel empowered through peer sharing about concrete ways to deal with the changing labour market during these uncertain times, and will use design thinking as a tool to help build resiliency. They will also be developing Industry Insider web talks in collaboration with Alumni Relations and professional associations.

Simon Fraser University, BC (Tony Botelho)

The career team at Simon Fraser University has created a dedicated Employment and Career Support Summer 2020 web page, highlighting information about who is hiring, financial supports, and how to access service remotely. This site will be complemented with a weekly blog for students. In the works are also some thematic town hall types of events where students can ask questions to staff as well as employer panels.

Queen’s University, Ontario

Here at Queen’s, we have launched a Student and New Graduate Employment Support during COVID-19 one-stop website. The site includes links to resources on how to search for jobs remotely, tips for how to work remotely, supports for assessing how to move forward if career plans have had to change and ideas about continuing with professional development even when summer job plans have changed. Also, to support on-campus departments that are working hard to continue to offer summer or part-time jobs for our students, we have a new “Supervising Students Remotely” workshop, including an updated supervision checklist. This provides an easy-to-use guide for what to cover when onboarding and supervising students in this remote environment. It also reinforces that these remote jobs can continue to offer high-quality experiential learning supported by meaningful skills development conversations.

These are just four examples of how the dedicated and innovative staff at university career centres have quickly pivoted to providing fully remote services. Across the country, career professionals are already designing and delivering new programming to help students and new graduates navigate this uncertain and changing new career landscape. More innovation and new supports are rolling out over the coming weeks. How has your career centre responded to service delivery and student support amid COVID-19? Share in the comments below.


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Cathy Keates Author
Cathy Keates is the Director of Career Services and Experiential Learning at Queen’s University. Cathy leads a team who helps students develop the skills, experience, and confidence to build their careers. Two projects, the Major Maps and It All Adds Up, a career health campaign with 43 career centres across Canada participating, were recognized with CACEE Innovation Awards. A CERIC-supported 2017 research study ranked Queen’s Career Services as the second most impressive model of post-secondary career services in Canada.
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Cathy Keates Author
Cathy Keates is the Director of Career Services and Experiential Learning at Queen’s University. Cathy leads a team who helps students develop the skills, experience, and confidence to build their careers. Two projects, the Major Maps and It All Adds Up, a career health campaign with 43 career centres across Canada participating, were recognized with CACEE Innovation Awards. A CERIC-supported 2017 research study ranked Queen’s Career Services as the second most impressive model of post-secondary career services in Canada.
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