Career fairs are an essential part of connecting what students explore when they start to participate in post-secondary and career planning in middle and high school and how they apply it later on as they come closer to realizing those plans.
High school career fairs don't just provide specific and valuable opportunities to make talent-labor connections within the community to benefit local economies. They represent a real-world opportunity for contextualizing concepts like career clusters and training for students. At the same time, industry partners have a chance to connect and engage with enthusiastic members of the future workforce within their communities while increasing local awareness about their brand, business, or corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR).
Taken altogether, career fairs allow school districts can meet any number of state mandates surrounding college and career readiness and preparedness, career and technical education (CTE), and graduation requirements.
It's no coincidence that opportunity fairs — which can include seasonal and entry-level jobs, internships, and volunteer openings — remain a popular and enduring choice for school districts hoping to achieve all of the above goals.
Career fairs are high-value events, and like most valuable things, what you get out of them tends to be a direct result of what you put into them. In the case of opportunity fairs, that can mean putting in a lot of time — something that school districts don't always have to spare. That's why we put this resource toolkit together to help you get started:
Begin by Determining the Objective and Scope of Your Opportunity Fair
Event coordination is a lot of work, full stop. We hope that the resources we're including will help defray some of that work. Another way to reign in the time cost of any event is to go back to basics.
Ask yourself (or your team or committee) the following questions, and then document the answers. An overarching objective to work toward (and measure!) will keep you all oriented on a shared "north star" and keep your event on track.
What is the Desired Outcome of the Career Fair?
Beginning by imagining your career fair is a success is a great place to start, especially if you can attach them to a school or district objective in CTE or readiness. For example:
- Offer co-ops or internships to X number of students
- Increase work experience hours by X% for graduating seniors
- Achieve 100% completion rates for career interest inventories or skills assessments for a particular school within the district
- Increase enrollment in early college high school for the district
- Create a student resume for every student to include in their portfolio
- Partner with X additional employers to offer mentorships or work-based learning opportunity hours to X% more students
Also, consider whether the opportunity fair will include activities or programming besides community employer/industry partner interaction at the booths on the career fair floor.
Do you want — and have the bandwidth for — value-added activities like:
- Participant presentations
- Q&A sessions
- On-site or mock interviews
- Career workshops or other hands-on exploration for students
Who is This Event For?
Are you coordinating your event for middle schoolers? High schoolers? You probably had this answer in \mind already, and it likely informed your answer to the "What?" of your career fair. It's also useful to extend the question of participation outward:
- Do you want parents to attend?
- Do you have specific industry partners in mind?
- Who will "man" the event? Teachers? A committee?
- Would you like to showcase community colleges or local business entities like your Chamber of Commerce in the event?
- Will you invite professional associations to your event? Which ones?
From there, you can think of how you want to recruit, engage, and communicate with each group of desired participants.
When Will We Offer the Career Fair to Our Students?
As you're building a timeline for your career fair, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you aren't feeling scrambling to get everything together when the time comes and reduce rescinded RSVPs.
- What are the "blackout" dates for students - exams, holidays, sports schedules, etc.
- Which blocks of time work best for industry partners?Are there any seasonal sweet spots that allow them to participate and align with internship or work-based learning openings?
- Do you plan to roll the event into the school day or host it outside of instruction time?
- Will you offer an asynchronous option for participation or will it be in-person only?
Where Will it Take Place?
With all of the previous logistical questions answered, you should have a good idea of what kind of physical space you need to bring it all together. Is it feasible to use district property, like a gymnasium, performing arts center, or sports complex, or do you need to take the event off-campus completely?
Of course, utilizing an outside space is hardly gratis. This seems like a good time to segue to the topic of fundraising, which you may need to consider to defray the cost of a venue (or the cost of the event overall!) Some options to consider are:
- In-kind donations like event space or refreshments
- Sponsorship agreements with local employers or business entities
- Local, state, or federal organizations and foundations that offer grants or other sources of funding
Downloadable High School Career Fair Resources
We've compiled or created these digital resources for download to support school communities who want to add career and opportunity fair events to their college and career readiness programming. We hope they prove to be helpful as you coordinate your event!
- Timeline and checklist for event coordinators: Download a simple to-do list organized into an event planning timeline
- Community partner email templates: Use these editable templates to invite, remind, and follow up with industry partner participants.
- Sample follow-up surveys: Follow up with industry partners and collect the information you need to measure the outcome of your event with surveys for students and partners
The most effective opportunity fairs are the ones that sustain relevance after the event ends. Reinforcing your event's learning objectives and outcomes means continuing the conversation after the booths have been broken down and packed away: in the classroom with your students, the conference room with your team, and in your community with your industry partners.
Coordinating events like school career fairs is an undertaking with a lot of moving parts to manage. With SchooLinks, there's no need to cobble together a piecemeal solution. Our modern platform is designed to connect students real world experience, and our unique approach allows them to do it all from a single location — and allows you to skip the spreadsheets and go straight to making an impact. Schedule a demo today to see how career and opportunity fairs come together in less time on SchooLinks