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Unitec overcomes challenges of lockdown to virtually match students with employers

Unitec is continuing to meet the demand for highly skilled workers by shifting its popular Industry Connect events online; the first ITP in New Zealand to offer a virtual version of its career fairs.

The Industry Connect events match students with employers and help them find jobs at the end of their study.  With the current COVID-19 restrictions on physical distancing, Unitec replaced its in-person events this year with a series of virtual career fairs held over three days last week. Unitec’s director of Industry Partnerships, Heather Stonyer, said the virtual event was a ‘huge success’. 
 
“Finding employment in their area of study is one of the key outcomes of student success at Unitec,” said Ms Stonyer, “and that doesn’t change because of alert levels.”
 
The line-up of Unitec’s Schools featured in the virtual events included Trades, Computing, Engineering, Construction Management, Business, and Environmental and Animal Sciences. Students were able to schedule times to visit exhibitors in their virtual booths, or online video rooms.

More than 1,700 students registered for the virtual careers event and over the course of the three days, Unitec hosted nearly 40 businesses.

Exhibitors included Datacom, Fulton Hogan, IBM New Zealand, MYOB, New Zealand Bird Rescue, Piritahi, Spark, and Warren & Mahoney Architects.
 
Many of the businesses who exhibited at the virtual careers fair came with jobs on offer. 
 
“Not only were our students work-ready, our businesses also came ready to sign up our graduates,” said Heather. “While the current pandemic has resulted in many people losing their jobs, there are growth industries in New Zealand that are actively seeking to employ people.” 

“With so much of New Zealand’s recovery supported by digital technology, there has never been a better time to get into tech,” says IBM New Zealand HR Manager Amandine Crosswell. 

Unitec graduate and exhibitor Libby Lavrova agrees. 

“I wanted to give back to students who are in the position I was once in,” she says.
 
Libby Lavrova graduated from Unitec with a Bachelor of Computing Systems in 2018 and is now a Cognitive Engineer at IBM.
 
She attended Unitec’s first virtual Industry Connect Career Fair as a way to give back to students – “I was once in that position and can relate to what they’re going through,” says Libby.
 
Libby joined IBM through the internship partnership programme it had with Unitec. To apply for the programme, Libby created a mobile and back-end application that was designed to allow people to upload photos of plants and tag the photos on a map so that other people could find them too.
Libby really enjoyed the practical and hands-on approach of her Bachelor’s Degree at Unitec and believes that it helped her build the technical and soft skills to thrive in an ever-changing environment like IBM.

Libby has been supported by Unitec since she was a Year 12 student at Kamo High School in Whangarei, when she participated and won the Mobile App Competition for Girls in 2014 and was awarded a tuition fee scholarship to study at Unitec. Many of the lecturers who supported Libby in the competition then became her lecturers at Unitec and still remain close contacts to this day. 


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