East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology (CET) has partnered with the ECU Career Services to hold its annual Engineering and Technology Fair virtually Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dean of CET Harry Ploehn said although most students believe the career fair is only about jobs post-graduation, the fair can provide a valuable experience and create professional networks. He said every student enrolled in a program within the CET should attend the fair in order to further explore their fields and talk with different employers, especially freshmen and sophomores.
Ploehn said students can find opportunities like full-time job postings, part-time and company internships at the fair. Engagement with companies not only expands a student’s network, he said, but it can be great practice for the future and can create an impressive resume.
“A student that graduates with a 4.0 GPA (grade point average), but hasn’t had any kind of engagement in other activities outside of the classroom, is not going to be as attractive or competitive as a student with a lower GPA that’s been engaged in one way or another, such as an internship or undergraduate research, or a student organization,” Ploehn said. “I mean, you really have to get that engagement beyond the classroom.”
Liaison for the CET at ECU’s Career Services Ariel Robinson said the fair serves as a way for employers to attend and engage with students. She said it’s important for students to connect with employers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robinson said the fair draws employers throughout the state and region and some come as far as Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. These employers look for students from almost every concentration within the CET, she said, such as construction management and computer technology.
Students who wish to attend the fair are required to register through the online system Handshake, Robinson said, where they’ll find information about the employers and their postings. She said more information about the fair is located on ECU’s Career Service’s website.
“One of the reasons why it’s very important for students to attend both of these fairs is because the more experimental learning you have, the more hands-on experience you have as a student, the more prepared you are to enter the workforce,” Robinson said. “So, it’s not just about making sure, ‘Oh, I worked in college,’ it’s not just about that. It’s about making sure you’re able to market yourself appropriately (and) get really great experience.”
Chair and Professor of the Department of Engineering Barbara Muller-Borer said although the fair’s virtual format will be different from previous years and can present some challenges, she believes this is something students should master before they begin to apply for jobs.
Muller-Borer said she encourages students to practice with interviews and their interactions with possible employers. She said this practice is beneficial for students as they make their way into the workforce, and they often become more comfortable and prepared for interviews in the future.
“From my perspective, this is a skill set students should learn. I do think these online interview opportunities are going to be more frequent now, and learning how to interview virtually is a skill set and ability that they should have,” Muller-Borer said. “That’s why I push students to attend the career fair for different reasons, but that is a big reason right now, to become familiar and comfortable (with) the virtual interviewing.”
Scott Snead, director of industry relations at the CET, said the fair is valuable because it not only allows employers to ask students questions, but allows for students to ask employers questions as well. He said students that do so will learn more about the company itself and be better equipped for important interviews in the future.
Students should begin to attend career fairs as early as they can, Snead said, in order to gain the most value from the fairs. He said the CET tries to focus on students who may not know the importance of these opportunities until it’s too late.
“The importance (of getting freshmen to the career fair) is we want our students to know how important internships are as freshmen, not just when they’re seniors or in their last year (or) because they think it’ll help them get a job. We want them to go early and start talking with these companies about getting internships,” Snead said.