A RECORD 175 companies have taken part in the annual career fair at Nanyang Technological University, as the strong economy encourages employers to hire.

Last year, 109 took part in the two-day event, which is held on NTU's campus in Boon Lay. By contrast, this year's fair - which was held on Tuesday and yesterday - was the largest organised by a university here.

About 4,500 jobs were up for grabs from a range of industries in both the private and public sectors. Last year, there were 2,600.

Employers taking part this year included government agencies such as the Ministry of Defence and the Housing Board, and companies such as retailer Charles and Keith, and property and real estate firm CapitaLand.

NTU said the three private sector industries most represented were building and construction; banking, finance and insurance; and engineering and manufacturing. Nearly 20,000 NTU students visited the fair over the two days.

NTU's director of career and attachment office, Mr Loh Pui Wah, said: 'The strong participation rate by employers is a reflection of the good economy and a sign the hiring sentiment's back.'

NTU has also launched an online system which allows undergraduates to hunt for a job and interact with potential employers without leaving the comfort of their homes or hostel rooms. To run from March 14, NTU's iFair will include features such as chats with employers via text, voice or webcam, downloads of company brochures, and a virtual exhibition hall where students can look for job vacancies.

Ms Lora Wong, senior assistant director of career services at NTU, said: 'iFair allows students who are overseas and who cannot come back in time for interviews to interact with employers. Having a virtual presence also offers more cost savings.'

A physical booth costs employers at least $800, while prices for virtual booths start at $350.

Students welcomed the virtual fair. Accountancy undergraduate Nathan Tee has already secured a job as an investment associate at Temasek Holdings, with a starting salary of between $6,000 and $7,000. The 24-year-old said: 'Some of my friends missed out on good job opportunities because they were on overseas attachments and couldn't make it for the interviews. The iFair will solve such issues.'