Embracing virtual impact with our employer partners

By Charlie Ledley, Partnerships Director 

Despite 2020 being an enormously challenging year, our move to embrace digital events has enabled much of our work to thrive despite the difficulties. 

Our partnership work is a perfect case in point – going from strength to strength recently, with virtual sessions allowing us to widen the reach to students nationwide.  A series of fantastic virtual insight and taster sessions with three of our employer partners took place in the run-up to Christmas.

Delivering impact with The Wellcome Trust

Two Wellcome Trust insight sessions were attended by 30 students from Queens’ School, Hertfordshire, Sir John Nelthorpe School near Scunthrope, and Stowmarket High School in Suffolk. During two mornings, students heard from 14 different employees from the charitable health foundation, including those on its graduate scheme, an apprentice and managers in the Early Careers and Diversity and Inclusion teams. They also heard from leaders in Advocacy and Policy, project managers within the Exhibitions team and a researcher funded by the organisation, who spoke about her current work. 

The involvement of employees from a wide range of roles at the Trust provided students with great insights into how to find opportunities and what pathways exist into big organisations such as The Wellcome Trust.

The early feedback showed the events had real impact with the students, with all those participating saying they would recommend the session to a friend and that they were more confident in their ability to get a job in the future. One student remarked: “It was useful to listen to Dr Ross speak about how working in research could be so interesting, and how to help develop my employability skills”. Thanks to the digital format, we were able to bring together students from places covering a huge geographical stretch of the country – many fairly remote. We’re also getting better and better at making sure students benefit as much as possible from these sessions. A Zoom ‘cheat sheet’ for volunteers is now being developed, so they have quick solutions to common technical issues they may encounter during sessions. 

Insight into the financial services with Legal & General

We also held one insight workshop with another of our valued employer partners, Legal & General, with a further workshop planned in January. The event was attended by 50 students from five schools across the country: Highfield Leadership Academy in Blackpool; Sir Thomas Wharton Academy in Doncaster; Sir John Nelthorpe School in North Lincolnshire; Chaucer School in Sheffield; and The Greycoat Hospital in London. Again, it was great to see a wide geographical split – something Legal & General were also really pleased to see.

Seven volunteers from the financial services company took part, covering a wide range of professions, including a senior finance manager and a human resources professional. In the workshop we ran some icebreaker activities, a Q&A – which brought forward some brilliant questions – and a task where the volunteers answered mock interview questions and were judged by the students. Digital sessions have also proved useful for providing various ways for students to participate. Some preferred to put their hands up and speak, whilst others chose to use the chat function. It’s great to have the options but also important to consider how you maximise the participation in digital sessions. A special thank you to Highfield Leadership Academy, Blackpool, for tweeting about the event!

Laurence Stannard of Legal & General said: “Access to relatable role models broadens students’ horizons, helping them to imagine a world beyond their own. Having grown up in the same community and being in the same classrooms, exposure to these role models through interactive workshops is an invaluable experience for these students. We look forward to the second event in January 2022.”

Entering the Dragons’ Den with Ashurst LLP

The third session was delivered by Ashurst LLP and saw Year 6 pupils from Bonner Primary School in Tower Hamlets, East London, pitch their recycled products to the law firm’s volunteers on a ‘judging panel’. The Dragon’s Den-style event saw some brilliant products offered up, such as a lolly stick boat with a working propeller, a felt race track and a clay bunny! It was a fabulous way for students to develop vital skills such as communication, presentation, interview preparation and problem-solving.

As they look to choose a career, students are facing a radically different future with growing uncertainty. The value of Future First’s partnerships with leading employers in helping them build confidence, belief and understanding cannot be overstated.

Find out more about our partners here, and if you would like to get involved, contact us info@futurefirst.org.uk