Are you looking for a way for your students to find out about job opportunities, learn about education options and get feedback on their CVs during the pandemic? When they couldn’t hold their recruitment fairs on-site, Hyria’s virtual version allowed students to explore materials regardless of time and place. Their 2021 virtual event welcomed more visitors than had ever attended the on-site version and they expect visitor numbers to keep growing, over their 2022 event and beyond.
Hyria – aiming for employment
Hyria is a Finnish educational and training organisation which provides vocational training, coaching and rehabilitation services for students of all ages. The choices range from sustainable development to management and from catering to logistics. Hyria aims not only to create graduates, but above all to help them secure jobs that inspire them. Organizing a diverse, engaging recruitment forum is particularly in line with Hyria’s values. This year’s virtual event made it easy for students to compare different fields, chat with employers and study mentors, and work on their CVs with the help of professionals.
ThingLink spoke to Heidi Heikkinen, Recruitment Coordinator at Hyria, who has been involved in implementing the Hyria Recruitment Forum for many years, traditionally been held on-site at Hyria. In 2021, the event could not be held on campus due to the pandemic, which led the team to look for virtual ways to hold the event.
The Challenges of an In-Person Event
Even before the pandemic, the recruitment forum experienced challenges with long distances. Hyria has several offices in Hyvinkää and Riihimäki (50km and 69km north of Finland’s capital Helsinki respectively), as well as operations in Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Lahti, Lope and Hausjärvi (all located in southern Finland).
In the past, the recruitment forum has been held for two days at the Riihimäki and Hyvinkää campuses. This has required a lot of time from the exhibiting employers and other organisations, and a lot of organisation from Hyria’s own staff.
Another challenge has been to find suitable dates for the event. It has been difficult to coordinate the schedules of employers and students, and to guarantee access for all students. Even if the recruitment forum was made “mandatory” in the students’ timetable to fit around commitments such as work placements, some could be ill or in quarantine and therefore unable to attend.
Previously it was also difficult to attract non-Hyria students when the event was held in the school’s sports hall. Outsiders had assumed that the event was only for Hyria’s own students only. So in previous years, the forum was also held in shopping centers to attract other job seekers. But this made it more difficult for Hyria students to attend due to other commitments.
Live webinar and virtual fair
In 2021 Hyria decided to try a virtual recruitment forum hosted on ThingLink for the first time as a response to these challenges. According to Heidi, the organizers (Hyria’s communications and marketing services team, Joni Leimu, Milla-Miia Luosujärvi and Katja Pudas) were quickly inspired by how easy it was for visitors to navigate the virtual event. Exhibitors’ information was grouped into clear sections with tags that included company descriptions, videos, links to further information and opportunities to chat with employers. It was also linked to the Instagram accounts of Hyria’s different sectors, which provided students with additional information and practical tips for their everyday studies.
The 2022 event
The second virtual fair in 2022 was based on the first event. The event link was published on the Hyria website on 14 February and was open for 5 days. Students, jobseekers and other interested parties could participate at their convenience without registration, wherever they were in the world. The target groups were Hyria’s own students and trainees who were considering further studies and future job opportunities, secondary school students who were in the process of making joint application choices, plus all other job seekers and those considering study options. This year, nearly 40 employers and several educational institutions from all over Finland were involved. The virtual event featured companies from a wider area than was possible at the on-site event.
Work-life training opportunities
The event additionally provided an opportunity to learn more about Hyria’s Nousussa-service, which organizes work-life training for young people. One department showed how easy it is to describe your skills and look for a job using their Tiitus service. Teachers were advised to visit the event with students first, after which students could explore the fields and jobs that interested them in their own time.
Widening access – open to all and open all hours
The organisers wanted to make the event easy to attend – so they lowered the threshold for joining by removing the need for registration.
One main advantage of a virtual event is that it can be partly real-time and partly time-independent. Visitors are free to move around the different stands to see the employers’ presentations. The Recruitment Forum featured a live webinar with presentations by the various exhibitors, which could be followed in real time on Zoom or watched afterwards. Both the video recordings and the links to Zoom were easily added to ThingLink – ensuring that visitors could easily find the presentations. “ThingLink made it easy to jump between the webinar and the different exhibitions” says Heidi. The virtual event also included a job search workshop, providing tips on how to find a job.
Increased Visitor Numbers Defy Expectations
Heidi was initially worried that the virtual fair would not attract enough visitors. Fortunately, this concern proved to be unfounded, as the number of visitors to the virtual implementation broke all records. The recruitment forum normally attracts a few hundred visitors. But in 2021 the number of visits to the platform was enormous: 6100 in 5 days. The average visit to the platform lasted 104 minutes, which shows that visitors also spent time watching videos, reading more information and chatting with exhibitors.
Easy and fun – The Main benefits from Heidi’s point of view
When the 2022 event was being considered, it was not yet known whether the pandemic situation would allow a live event. According to Heidi, even if a live event could be organised, the benefits of a virtual event would be greater than a live event. Heidi has concluded that she is in favor of virtual version of this event even after the pandemic. Here are the main reasons why:
- ThingLink lends itself very well to content production because the interface is really easy to use – for people of all ages, including those with no previous experience of creating materials.
- ThingLink makes it easy to organise an event, even in the evening from the comfort of your own couch.
- You don’t have to know or learn how to use graphic design packages to use ThingLink. You can create materials using software you are familiar with – such as PowerPoint. “Simply take a screenshot of a PowerPoint slide, add it to ThingLink as a background image and create a few tags, which can be easily embedded with YouTube videos and school websites. The same background can easily be used in many different sections – just change the background image and tag information.” Heidi Heikkinen, Recruitment Coordinator
- ThingLink saves employers a lot of time. “Previously, they had to attend a two-day recruitment event; now all they have to do is submit their materials at registration and we create a section for them in ThingLink on their behalf.”
- Ease of cloning and editing a previous virtual event. Heidi says that although it takes time for an event organiser to build a virtual event, the work is much faster now that last year’s work can be used as a base.
- Event material is available 24/7 so can reach job seekers living anywhere in the world who would not travel to attend your event.
- Students and employers don’t have to travel long distances to attend the event.
- You can look at the materials anywhere – at the bus stop or in the school canteen, alone or with friends or family, for example.
- You can send a friend a link to interesting jobs at the event.
Heidi’s Top Tip for Content Producers and Event Organisers
“Collect materials from exhibitors at the time of registration. It saves time for both exhibitors and event organisers if companies upload their presentation materials to the cloud themselves, removing the need for email attachments. It’s then easy for event organisers to upload and create content in ThingLink.”
Positive student feedback
Heidi reports that employers liked the platform and gave positive feedback on the virtual event. Students were also enthusiastic:
“I love that it felt like a gamified experience!” (Hyria student feedback)
Other feedback included:
- It was easy to navigate the platform without registering
- Heidi had added a Messenger link to her welcome video in ThingLink. Students appreciated being able to message her on Messenger when it suited them and ask for advice or more information.
As a recruitment coordinator, Heidi has also considered and tested other ways of using ThingLink.
- She has prepared CV tips material to help students in their job search. She used PowerPoint to simply create a background image in ThingLink and add tags.
- Along the same lines, Heidi has also created an Alumni Stories package, which allows students to see descriptions of the careers of eager graduates and their tips for current students.
We can’t wait to see what other uses for ThingLink the team at Hyria come up with. We look forward to hearing the feedback on the event!
For more information about the Hyria Recruitment Forum, please visit the Hyria website