Forward-thinking leaders at colleges and universities have forged some clever solutions to tackle challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Courses traditionally held in lecture halls swiftly moved online. Traditional commencement ceremonies deftly became virtual events.
And some faculty members, such as the University of Oklahoma’s Mike Aguilar, have even helped position their graduates for the future by directly connecting them – virtually – to decision-makers at companies.
Later this month, his Sooner Esports Club will team up with online event platform Gamerjibe in hosting a five-day virtual career festival for those seeking jobs in the video game industry. Interested students and alumni will be able to create avatars that can tour a number of different booths and speak to each company’s representatives, as well as download brochures and listen to presentations.
The 3D Virtual Esports Career Festival will be held 7-9 p.m. CST each day from May 18-22, while the actual fair will be hosted from 4-9 p.m. CST on May 20. It will feature a number of panel sessions in addition to its expo. Among the trade show’s guests will be the U.S. Marine Corps, which offers training in cybersecurity, high-speed communications and intelligence. More than 1,500 attendees already have signed on for the event, according to Gamerjibe.
“With higher education specifically focusing on reaching Gen Z-age demographics currently for creating outreach for recruitment, career fairs, and expos, focusing on programming that speaks to their tech-savvy foundation is key to setting institutions apart,” Aguilar says. “The event will feature companies that are seeking candidates for jobs, allow networking, and facilitate presentations for all those who attend and have an interest.”
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Full Academic Esports Conference Agenda: Check out all of the speakers and sessions slated for the inaugural event here.
According to Aguilar, who leads OU’s Esports Club and does project management and business analysis for Oklahoma’s IT department, these events are not only cost-effective for universities (and necessary during the pandemic), but they are also a welcome environment for Gen Z students as it gives them a less formal way initially to interact with companies.
“Gen Z has always had information at their fingertips, is used to interacting with others purely digitally, often turns away from traditional phone calls in lieu of textual-based messaging, and thrives in online communities where identities are shadowed, communication is less invasive, and they can lurk and consume information at their own will,” Aguilar says.
“So imagine the prospect of a traditional in-person career fair and how it can feel very counter-intuitive to these generations, how they deal with communication outside of their close circles, and how confrontational it can feel to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation without any real introduction.”
The idea of hosting a virtual fair isn’t new but is becoming more prevalent as shutdowns across the country have forced planners to find a way to connect online. His event offers networking opportunities in an immersive and interactive environment.
“Before I met my first student on this journey back in fall 2016, I had very clear top level missions in mind,” Aguilar says. “First, how do I entertain and develop opportunities for currently enrolled students? Second, how do I get prospective students to see the value in what we’re doing? Finally, how do I get the students who are passionate about this into this industry? For almost four years, I’ve never had a really appropriate answer to career placement opportunities.”
This event does that for those in his OU Esports Club, which is one of the biggest in the country at more than 1,100 members.
Chris Burt is the Esports Editor for University Business magazine and the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo.