Virtual connections on campus
The University of Liverpool developed VirtualConnect in response to the Covid-19 pandemic as a way of connecting employers and students during a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
In an unstable graduate labour market, students wanted to find out from employers what the impact of the pandemic would be on student and graduate opportunities; as well as how best to develop their skills and navigate recruitment processes in an increasingly tech-enabled world.
Whilst employers were under a great deal of pressure to adapt to this ‘new normal’ it became apparent that some were still keen to engage with the University of Liverpool, in order to maintain their profile, protect their brand image and continue to engage with high quality talent.
Our aim was to connect the dots and ensure our students continue to make connections, build networks and get hired using digital solutions.
Given the escalating nature of the pandemic and the challenges facing both employers and students, it was important for us to act quickly, so we developed the concept of VirtualConnect.
An extension of CareerConnect, our physical events offer, VirtualConnect was a series of remote employer-led events for students. The programme included: live webinars designed to showcase current opportunities and to upskill students for a remote recruitment model, slots for phone calls with graduate recruiters, online networking sessions, employer takeovers of our social media pages and more.
Events were collated and showcased to students under the VirtualConnect banner, using existing branding to create familiarity and to encourage student engagement across the programme.
One key benefit of VirtualConnect was that the programme was flexible, allowing employers to input with content that suited them and the needs of their business at that time. This also made for a diverse programme, involving employers from a wide range of sectors, some of whom would not have ordinarily engaged in on-campus activity due to geographical boundaries.
The main objective for VirtualConnect was to create a platform to promote positive messages to students about the graduate labour market and provide them with opportunities to connect with employers virtually during a challenging and uncertain time.
This was important for us as students were, and still are, anxious about their future, with 81% concerned about job prospects and 71% about their employability, according to a recent report from the National Union of Students (NUS).
Engagement with the programme was positive; it comprised around 100 events hosted by over 40 employers, with an average of 25 students attending each session. Student and employer feedback was also encouraging:
“VirtualConnect has allowed me to get lots of my questions answered. I would definitely recommend it to other students.” Final year physics student
“Hosting a webinar as part of VirtualConnect engaged an excellent audience for us to showcase Sci-Tech Daresbury and the opportunities with our companies.” Dr Paul Treloar, Business Manager, Sci-Tech Daresbury
Given its success, and the ongoing restrictions likely to be in place for both HEIs and employers, we are now developing VirtualConnect to create a more robust and structured virtual events offer for next academic year, designed to meet the needs of both students and employers.
We will continue to collaborate with employers to explore creative ways for them to connect with our students, ensuring our offer is varied, engaging and experiential and that our approach remains relevant to the changing world of work.