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1 July 2020
Careers After COVID-19: Virtual Grad Expos And The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have rapidly changed the working world. Many workers have found themselves working remotely, relying on digital tools to replace their old office jobs. Many others have had to reduce their workloads, or take leave. And many - far too many - have found themselves unemployed, as companies battle to cut costs and survive the crisis.

“The reality is that the shutdown of commerce and industry due to the pandemic has negatively impacted economic growth, and consequently, the number of graduate opportunities,” says University of the Western Cape Careers Service Manager, Winston Middleton. “The competition for positions will be greater than ever, and students will have to up their game regarding their job search. Recruiters and university career services have thus been forced to ‘recalculate’.”

“Many jobs are becoming extinct - and thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, that’s happening faster than ever,” UWC’s award-winning Careers Service Coordinator, Nazrana Parker, adds. “We’re working in a world where things are changing at such a rapid rate that students need to be able to show their creativity. And they have to be willing to learn - not just in the classroom, but wherever they may be.”

Employers still need graduates - and universities have to continue facilitating the job search of their students. However, the physical sites of recruitment and career fairs on campuses are shut down and recruiters face travel restrictions. So for university careers services, the buzzword “online” has become the new normal.

And that’s a new normal that UWC Careers Service is well-prepared for.

“Our purchase of the Careers Service Management tool by Symplicity in 2016 enabled us to make the transition into the new normal, normal,” Middleton says. “We have been providing online services to our students via our Career Xplora portal ever since, teaching them how to find their way in the new world of work.”

The UWC Career Xplora is an effective job search and preparation tool. Students log on with their Ikamva details, complete their account settings, and walla! They can access a range of online careers services.

“With technology, we’ve been able to expand the depth and the breadth of our service,” explains Parker. “We can invite them to events, send job blasts, and monitor interests. Career Xplora puts an employer directory in a student’s pocket - they can explore employer profiles, follow ideal employers, apply for jobs, and more.”

Another important job search tool is LinkedIn (students can find guidelines on how to set up their LinkedIn account in the CareerXplora Resource Centre).

“LinkedIn provides professionals with the platform to connect and share each other’s work profiles and expertise,”  notes Mihlali Ncukana, Office for Student Development Intern. “It is also an excellent platform to learn from and engage with your peers, mentors, lecturers, industry leaders, expert professionals, ideal employers and possible recruiters.” 

Another ‘must use’ website in South Africa is It is used by many South African recruiters as their recruitment platform. Set up your account beforehand and familiarise yourself with it.

#QuantifyYourFuture was designed by SAGEA for STEM students and provides information and insights to potential learners and students to enhance their understanding of new roles emerging in the world of work.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, IT and online skills are more crucial than ever before,” Middleton remarks. “The culture of working remotely or at home demands new competencies and values compared to your superior being at arm's length from you.”

Virtual Grad Expo 2020: Exploring Careers Wherever You Are

It’s in that spirit that UWC is joining 21 other universities in a collaboration with the South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA) for a national SAGEA Virtual Grad Expo, which will allow students from across the country to engage with industry experts and find out where their talent could take them - all in an online virtual space.

“As always, preparation is key for successful participation,” UWC Careers Service Administrative Assistant Natalie Thomas says. “We encourage students to take time before the ‘live’ days to explore the pavilions and prepare questions for recruiters. And remember that you are representing yourself, your faculty and UWC.”

UWC students will have access to prospective employers who do not visit our campus. Most of the companies that registered will be present on all three days. Additionally, UWC Careers Service will be hosting a booth allowing students to engage with staff and ask questions regarding their job search and gain tips to improve their job search preparation.

“As the effects of the virus are still expected over the next two years, virtual career fairs and other online engagements will become the new norm,” Middleton concludes. “We hope that the event will point students in the direction of jobs, vacation employment, bursary opportunities and much more!”

The three-day event is open to all UWC students and recent alumni, with the first event to be held on 21 July 2020. (The Expo platform will be open for two months after the last day for students to view profiles and apply for opportunities.) Click here to register for the event!