Do we still need the Careers Fayre?

On the whole students love a Careers Fayre! Where else can they replenish their termly worn pencil cases with triangular shaped highlighters and ball-point pens that are more than a little hit and miss when it comes to functionality? On their merry meander around the freezing cold/stiflingly hot (delete as seasonally appropriate) school hall collecting those aforementioned items, they may find the time to chat about career or education pathways and hopefully not just with each other. Outside of the stationery trinket collecting, what do students actually get out of the experience? And is there space and time in a Post-pandemic world for them?

It could be argued that the Careers Fayre is the symbol of what was wrong with Careers education for years. Often used as the tick-box activity for a school to say that they covered Careers – the sticky plaster over the gaping wound that was the pre-Gatsby world. They are time-consuming to arrange for students and exhibitors to attend and getting the right people in the same room at the same time is an often insurmountable challenge. That said, the energy and buzz created in the room when those doors open is a rare experience, one that is only ever achieved when an event is delivered on a large scale.

When done well the Careers Fayre provides young people with an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with multiple employers or institutions. It also allows the school to engage directly with labour markets to provide young people with an chance to gain an meaningful insight on the local employment, training, further and higher education opportunities.

The problem remains rooted in the word ‘meaningful’ – some of the more confident young people will be happy to engage with exhibitors in a meaningful way. Asking pertinent questions regarding pathways and progression. Sadly, there will be a large proportion of students who are just not going to be able to have those conversations. Restricted by their own limitations of confidence and communication skills conversations are very much one way; often young people will sweep by collecting the glossary promotional material that’s destined for the nearest bin or school bag black hole.

There are ways in which we can prepare young people and exhibitors to make these interactions more effective and the Careers Fayre generally more meaningful.

  • Student Need Survey
    • ask the students which sectors or specific business/institutions they would like to have in the room
  • Pre Evaluations of young people
    • what do students know of the exhibitors?
    • do they know who is coming?
    • have they had a chance to do any research?
  • Booklets
    • preparing booklets for young people to use is great.
    • incentivise students to visit exhibitors by asking them to collect a stamp in their booklet from each exhibitor spoken to
    • add stimulus questions in the booklets – sentence starters for them to use
  • Exhibitor briefing and documentation
    • have a proper briefing with exhibitors so you can deliver key messages and context regarding students
    • provide them with sentence starters as well to improve interaction
    • ask them what they are hoping to get from the event
  • Post Evaluations of young people
    • what’s changed as a result of the event?
    • do they know more now than they did before?
    • which exhibitors were the best/surprised them/have now ruled them out?
  • Post Evaluations for the exhibitors
    • what went well?
      • logistics? refreshments? facilities?
    • top tips?
    • contact detail updates?
    • future events or careers activities?

There still is a place for these events and organised more effectively they still have a place in a Careers programme. We need to always be mindful that just because we’ve always done something doesn’t mean that we should always do it. If we take a more targeted approach, ensuring that we address the needs of individual students it will make these events more meaningful – elevating them from a mere stationery foraging exercise.

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