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I am a third year English Major at the University of Maine. In my free time I can be found playing rugby, working out, or enjoying a good book.

The University of Maine Engineering Job Fair has been a collaborative event between the UMaine Career Center and the UMaine College of Engineering for 22 years. Their mission to connect engineering students with potential employers and opportunities in their field has not been stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Oct. 21 of this year, the UMaine Engineering Job Fair was hosted online via Simplicity and the CareerLink Management System. The event hosted 90 employers, 79% of which were looking to hire summer interns.

Maeve Dineen, a third-year student in the environmental and civil engineering program at UMaine believes the fair is important for engineering students.

“I’m really glad they found a way to be able to hold the job fair, even though it is online,” Dineen said. She expressed some concerns about potential technical difficulties but was glad that they were hosting it on a platform with video chatting capabilities. “The engineering job fair ultimately gives engineers an opportunity to network, talk to different companies and gain interview experience… for [third and fourth-year students] there’s a chance you can get an internship or a full-time position.”

However, the fair is helpful for students of all years enrolled in the UMaine engineering program. Seeing the event hosted online despite the setbacks of the pandemic has certainly been a relief to many.

The event hosted through the Simplicity system was opened with a virtual statement from the Vice President for Student Life and Inclusive Excellence and Dean of Students Robert Dana, available for students to watch prior to the event, along with a guide to how the event would be run. The guide advised that students upload an updated version of their resume, and to double check that their webcam was functioning to chat effectively with recruiters. Each individual company had specific instructions for how their chat functions would work.

In order to enter the chat function with a company, the fair made use of electronic queue systems, which students could enter and wait to speak with the organizations. Estimated wait times were displayed alongside the company name, and students could choose to leave a queue and join others at their will. When employers were ready to speak with students, a pop-up notification would appear to alert them to join the chat. Students would then adhere to the guidelines of the chat set out by the company, utilizing Zoom, Microsoft Team or other video chatting functions to connect with the recruiter.

Some other useful functions of the Simplicity CareerLink website were the note function, and the search filters. Following interviews, students were able to make notes about the employers who they spoke with, a useful function for keeping track of which companies were of interest to the students, and which recruiters to follow up with. The search filters available through the website also allowed students to narrow down companies based upon their fields and available positions, helping them to curate queues that were specific to their own goals and interests.

Despite some connectivity issues, Dineen found the Simplicity virtual program effective for speaking with potential employers.

“The system they were using worked; you could get in line for multiple companies at a time which was good,” Dineen said. “The queue function was not the perfect substitute for in-person communication because I did have connection issues… but it alerted you when a company was available which was helpful.”

The convenience and accessibility of the online fair were good substitutes for in-person communication given the circumstances the event was being hosted under. The 22nd UMaine Engineering Job Fair hosted virtually through Simplicity created opportunities for many of UMaine’s engineering students to network and communicate with professionals in their field.