By Kiana Dulan | Staff Writer

On Thursday, Sept 17th, KCC’s Employment Prep Center will host the first statewide virtual career fair with volunteers from all seven community college campuses. This event will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., with the first hour being a keynote event about the future of Hawaiʻi’s jobs. Registration ended yesterday, on Sept. 15, but supplemental presentations and handouts such as ‘Tips for Writing an Effective Resume’ and ‘Job Fair Success Strategies’ can be found at the University of Hawaiʻi’s Community Colleges Virtual Career Fair website.

During the Spring 2020 semester when the pandemic just started, Oʻahu’s community colleges hosted their first virtual job fair. Because unemployment rates were increasing, the Employment Center wanted to do something for students because they were losing their jobs. The hospitality and tourism industry was not hiring, so employers in areas such as finance, medicine, customer service, and marketing were present at the spring’s job fair. There will be 31 organizations present at this career fair in industries such as transportation, STEM, public services, non-profits, the environment, creative arts, and agriculture & forestry. A full list of these organizations can be found here.

Because a lot of planning happens behind these events, the EPC had to decide to have a virtual career fair by July. EPC’s Interim Coordinator Su Lazo expected to coordinate a virtual fair once the amount of COVID-19 cases started expanding into the triple digits. 

“You donʻt know other people’s apprehensions and anxieties when it comes to COVID,” Lazo said. “You want people to have access to employers in the most comfortable setting, and we want to protect their health and safety of everybody, so virtual just seems the best option for us right now.”

Lazo did not find it difficult to coordinate and transition from an in-person to an online event mostly because she already had participated in virtual workshops. Some of the tasks for in-person career fairs are the same such as inviting and reaching out to employers, so the EPC had a foundation to transition to an online event.

However, there were still challenges to learn from the spring virtual job fair. Breakout rooms proved tedious, so students will instead be able to hop in and out of 31 virtual meetings going on at the same time. Each virtual “booth” will have a UHCC facilitator that will man the booth to support the employer, and participants will be able to jump back and forth between sessions, similar to an in-person event. The EPC made a virtual booth guide, which has Zoom links and ID’s for each meeting. This guide will be updated by Thursday morning and emailed to those who have registered for the event.

To help students stand out to possible employers, UHCC has provided resources concerning how to prepare for a virtual job fair, how to develop an elevator pitch, how to dress for success, what to do after the fair, and more.

“Before the pandemic, it was such a jobseeker’s market,” Lazo said. “Because our unemployment was so low, employers were kind of desperate for people, but that has completely changed. It is now an employer’s market. There are so many people that are looking for a job now, [employers] can take their pick.”

Although employers are looking for employees, Lazo also mentioned that students “don’t need to be looking for a job to attend this event.”

“That’s why it’s called a ‘Career Fair’ and not a ‘Job Fair,’” Lazo said. “This event is just as much for people that are looking for jobs as those that are looking to get career advice and to do career exploration. I’m sure there’s at least one industry [students] are interested in pursuing potentially as a career, so this is their opportunity to speak with professionals in that industry. It’s a great networking opportunity for students, not if they’re just looking for a job.”

There will also be a keynote event concerning the future of Hawaiʻi’s jobs at 9 am on Thursday, an hour before the career fair. The panel features four executive directors of the workforce development boards from each of the counties across the state. They’ll share how the pandemic has impacted the local labor market as well as insights on how to navigate the future given the uncertainty of our economic situation.

“We’d love for students to hear it,” Lazo said.  “This is impacting their future, their career, and employment goals, so that’s something we’re really excited about. … This is all for them.”

For more information about the UHCC Virtual Career Fair, contact or check out their FAQ.