Last Wednesday, the RAWC was filled with students for the Career Centre’s Get Experience Fair. The fair occurs every year, with the goal of introducing students to organizations that can give them the opportunity to gain experience that would be helpful in the workforce. Students got the chance to meet representatives from 70 different organizations, including on-campus organizations such as UTMSU, UTM Green Team, the Research Opportunity Program, and UTM Sexual Education & Peer Counselling Centre, as well as external organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, Bell Mobility, Best Buddies Canada, Ernestine’s Woman Shelter, Peel Regional Police, and Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
The hope is that bringing different organizations to the students, rather than having the students going out into the workforce and searching for themselves, will make it easier for undergraduate students to network, make meaningful connections, and hopefully find a volunteer position, part-time job, internship, or Work-Study opportunity that might not otherwise be as accessible to them.
“The idea is to help students find out what they want to do with their life, and then point them in a direction that will help them do that,” said Monica Scott, Career Outreach Consultant. “Every organization that registers lists unique skills students will be able to develop if they choose to volunteer with them.” This year the Career Centre added a bulletin board with a list of skills and experience students may want to gain or improve upon, and matched these categories up with suggestions for suitable organizations.
“Ideally, I would love to sit down and do a one-on-one with every student who comes here, help them figure out exactly what they want to do or what they’re looking for,” said Claire Westgate, Coordinator, Events & Employer Services. “Obviously, I can’t. But we try our best to make it as personal as possible. The students are all out in green shirts trying to help anyone who needs it, and we have counsellors here providing advice, suggestions, and encouragement to students before talking to an organization.”
“This is the best fair I come to,” said Leanne, the representative for Distress Centre Peel. “You have no idea how often I go to one of these things and only a few people show up. But the UTM fair is so well-organized and you get such a high turnout. Getting volunteers is very important for us, so it’s great to come to an event and know you’re going to leave with some potential volunteers.”
This year 1,142 students participated in the fair—on par with last year, and equal to roughly 11% of UTM’s student body, an impressive figure considering that most universities only see 3–4% of students attend such fairs.
“I would have gone if I knew what it was,” remarked Sam Pitcher, a fourth-year student. “I’ve just never understood what it was, really.”
The Get Experience Fair is a one-day event that only runs for two hours, a period of time during which many students have class and are therefore unable to attend the event.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about the time. The RAWC is really the only place we could host the event, and this is the only time we can book it. It’s unfortunate that we can’t do it longer, but we do the best we can,” said Westgate. Students who were unable to attend the event can visit the Career Centre website and find information on all of the organizations that participated in the fair.
“I think what’s important to me is that students are able to connect with our partner organizations, whether to find an opportunity to gain experience, or just show an increased awareness of what kinds of opportunities and organizations are out there for the future,” said Westgate. “Our partner organizations really love our campus and our students, so if we were able to make some good connections for people, help organizations to become aware of the high quality of our students, and for our students to learn about industries, organizations, and our community, then I’m happy.”