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Virtual job fairs – a format with a future

Earli Shima (Albania) and Marija Brankovic (Serbia)

Virtual job fairs – a format with a future

Getting to know your future employer online – virtual job fairs make it possible. The German Information Centres for Migration, Vocational Training and Career (DIMAK) in Serbia and Albania also use this format. In a joint interview, Marija Brankovic from DIMAK Serbia and Earli Shima from DIMAK Albania talk about their experiences with virtual job fairs and the challenges and opportunities of the concept.

Virtual job fairs – why? Due to COVID-19?

Marija Brankovic: The pandemic has changed the way companies recruit and train employees. Searching for a job and communicating with employers online is becoming more and more important. Participating in a virtual event is also more appealing for our target groups, since they often feel insecure in formal settings.

Earli Shima: The world and our way of living is becoming more and more digital, that’s why virtual fairs have already been organised in Albania in previous years. This format is not a direct response to the pandemic; it’s more a natural evolution of the job market and the way the world is evolving. The fair focused strongly on the reintegration and employment of returnees from Germany and third countries, but also of the local population.

What are the advantages of a virtual fair for participants?

Earli Shima: It has many advantages: if you live in the north of Albania, you don't have to travel to the other side of the country to look for a job. Participants can use the platform to conveniently obtain up-to-date information and to network with potential employers throughout Albania. In the past, job seekers usually went to the labour office in their city and asked for suitable jobs. We created a national market that is accessible to everyone from the comfort of their own home; we offered a network of connections and created bridges between job seekers and employers from all over Albania.

Marija Brankovic: Many participants in Serbia did not have an email address or a CV prior to the fair – now they do. DIMAK worked with the National Employment Service (NES) as well as local NGOs to organise Serbia-wide hotspots where young activists provided on-site support for those who could otherwise not participate in such a digital format. Mobile teams in several towns and villages helped citizens to access the platform and guided them through the virtual environment. This gave marginalised groups better opportunities in the labour market. Thanks to this initiative, 136 people from marginalised groups participated in the fair, 43 of them returnees.

How do you rate the success of the fairs?

Earli Shima: We are very satisfied, the fair was fully booked. On the virtual platform we set up, we had 5,500 participants who exchanged information with over 100 companies. Among the participants were about 500 returnees. 203 came from Germany. In total, the represented companies advertised 2,974 vacancies. In the meantime, more than half of them have been filled.

Marija Brankovic: Our capacities were fully exhausted, which means we had 7,500 participants, out of which 1,599 were returnees. There was interest from all over Serbia – and visible success. In Leskovac, in the south of the country, 70 people were hired after the fair, 19 of which were returnees. The media showed a lot of interest, which highlighted the National Employment Service, too.

What was particularly well received and what will remain relevant in the future?

Marija Brankovic: Our webinars on better employability for marginalised social groups in particular, which took place parallel to the main programme, were well received: Experts provided information on specific topics. One of them was about presenting oneself to an employer and had a title "How do I survive a job interview?" The webinar was held by a communication expert. A labour law expert gave a lecture on the topic: "What rights do I have when I sign an employment contract?" Participants had the opportunity to send their questions to the experts prior to the job fair, which were then answered in the webinars. From my point of view, it was also good that the fair’s website was still accessible for another month, so individuals who missed the event could watch the webinars later on. Also, the NES is now keen to expand the concept and, for example, organise several local, decentralised virtual job fairs in the future.

Earli Shima: For us, too, the platform remained online for another two weeks and relevant information was available on job vacancies. Many people also appreciated that the event was free of charge and they did not have to travel far. The exhibitors themselves also benefited a lot from this measure, since they had no expenses, like renting booths, printing materials and logistical costs, due to the digital nature of the job fair. Therefore, the format will remain relevant for the next years.

As of: 08/2021

Searching for a job and communicating with employers online is becoming more and more important.
Marija Brankovic

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