Kyle McGuire, a second-year HVAC student, stands in front of the Employment Support Centre in the Student Commons. Photo credit: Leslie Bader

While the doors to Algonquin College’s Employment Support Centre have been closed and its windows dark throughout the pandemic, the number of students who have been using their services – virtually – has only increased.

Carol Ann Mahoney, employment outreach officer, said that a silver lining of the centre’s physical closure has been the ease students have had in joining sessions from home, and networking with other campuses.

It has been almost two years since employment officers have been able to assist students in person, yet the need for job search and networking tools has not diminished.

Working remotely, the careers team has pivoted their programs to be 100 per cent online. With COVID-19 restrictions continuing, staff at the centre are working to make sure services are accessible to all students.

“It is different, but don’t give up,” said Mahoney

The website of the Employment Support Centre lists several ways they can help a student in their quest for work. The first step is contacting the Welcome Centre to book a one-on-one appointment with an employment counsellor to discuss needs and goals. Students can get assistance with resume building, cover letters, interview skills and using social media.

“They need to customize their resume for each position applied for,” said Mahoney, “and creating a digital profile on LinkedIn is necessary today.”

New virtual recruitment and networking sessions offer job seekers the chance to meet with hiring employers. Upcoming webinars using an “ask me anything” approach aim to decrease the tension students often feel when engaging with a prospective employer. Zoom meetings are the preferred mode of communication as they allow for more interactions between participants, using icebreakers and polls, for example.

The biggest event the Employment Support Centre organizes is the annual AC Career Week, which takes place during the college’s winter break. It was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the centre was able to mount it virtually last year and will again this spring.

Traditionally held in the old gym, the career-networking fair brought together over 75 employers and 1,400 students. This year, daily Zoom meetings will host diverse employers in fields such as education, finance and civil engineering. Peer-to-peer sessions will bring together Algonquin College alumni and new graduates.

The Employment Support Centre also provides specialized services for Indigenous, international and disabled students. There will be a zoom session on Tues. Feb. 8, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., to answer common questions students with disabilities have about employment.

Mahoney said the Centre is happy to talk with anyone who needs help.

“Be proud of your experiences,” she said. “Everything adds up to your career goal.”