American University Dubai
American University Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Some universities in the UAE are hosting virtual career fairs to connect students with potential employers as campuses remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Colleges are hosting web-based recruitment events, which include video interviews, as an alternative to in-person networking on campus.

Cynthia Samaha

Cynthia Samaha, Career Services Manager, American University in Dubai (AUD), said, “As social distancing and working from home were gradually implemented to stop the spread of Covid-19, the Career Services Department, along with the rest of AUD, has efficiently and successfully transitioned online, adapting all outreach efforts, including interviews, workshops, CV clinics and other services to our online platforms.”

The ‘AUD 2020 Career Hunt’ was due to host over 80 of the region’s “top companies”, start-ups and government entities on campus from across all sectors. “We are in regular discussion with all of our partners, and are actively working with the companies that still have employment opportunities through dedicated virtual exploration sessions,” Samaha said.

Bucking the trend

Samaha believes the disruptions will lead to an increase in hiring in some sectors, especially those related to new technologies, healthcare and essential FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods).

Another new trend, she said, is “off-site” internships within industries such as social media, content editing, data analysis, information technology, graphic design, writers, digital marketing, and research.

“Fortunately, the majority of our majors have the flexibility of allowing online internships as part of the internship module,” she added. However, some companies have temporarily paused their internship programmes until the safety measures are officially eased.

Virtual workers

AUD electrical engineering student Mema Abi Farah, who is set to graduate soon, said he was open to the prospect of starting his career as a “virtual employee” but conceded it was not his first choice.

Through the Career Services Department, he received information on who is still hiring and tips on how to work from home for internships that transitioned online.

Also, the AUD engineering school recently provided an alternative to the field experience course through hosting webinars by industry professionals. These webinar series will be used instead of the internship component, allowing Farah and others a chance to take this alternative path.

Mema Abi Farah

Farah said, “I will certainly accept offers to start as a virtual employee if I get that chance, as it is clear that the world is moving towards such a work model, and as fresh graduates we are expected to be flexible and adaptable to all circumstances. I just hope that mentorship and building strong relationships remain possible with work-from-home.”

Remote networks

On Monday, American University of Sharjah (AUS) held its first ‘Virtual Career Fair’ seeing

students and alumni connect with recruiters via video or text chat; browse ‘booths’; check the posted vacancies and apply; attend webinars, auditorium sessions, panel discussions; and network with recruiters from any location using their laptops or mobile phones.

Around 35 employers meanwhile were able to search resumes and have access to a set of candidate skills, experience levels and backgrounds.

‘New ways’

AUS chancellor Professor Kevin Mitchell said, “The university benefits from long-standing mutually beneficial relationships with employers, and we are grateful to the corporate partners who have contributed to making sure that the AUS Career Fair is successful. We are committed to working with employers across a range of sectors to provide possibilities for students and alumni to demonstrate how their education has provided them with the knowledge and skills that can be applied to new ways of working.”

Evolving model

Dimitris Tsouroplis, Director of HR, Crescent Enterprises, said, “The digital transformation of the workplace is no longer simply an option. As we enter the recovery phase of the current crisis, we will see an expansion in virtual work capabilities. The traditional workplace model is evolving, and the future workplace will integrate physical and virtual environments. Graduates must undertake the necessary preparation to enable them to understand the capabilities required to scale their roles digitally both now and in the future.”