Turning working from home into work experience from home

Written by Lauren Barr, Alumni Programme Officer.

It’s been almost two months since schools and colleges across the UK had to close their doors to many students, and young people are now having to get used to their new learning-from-home lifestyle. Many are still coming to terms with missing out on major milestones, including key exams, leavers’ assemblies, summer proms and induction days. The other important event of the summer term that students will miss is work experience.

Particularly for Year 10 students, the week-long work experience placement they undertake through school is often their first proper encounter with a workplace. Their teachers are keen to prepare them, going through professional attire and behaviour, how to make a good first impression (and perhaps also a good cup of tea!) During the week, students gain a greater understanding of how workplaces are run and what a typical working day looks like. They also have the opportunity to develop key employability skills, such as time management, communication and resilience, through their interaction with employees and the tasks they’re set.

While teachers might be concerned about the impact of the pandemic on curriculum learning, we also need to ensure that lockdown doesn’t deprive students of this fundamental part of their careers education. And there are ways of doing this. There are lots of organisations who have already come up with virtual solutions to make up for lost placements: Scape Group, a public sector construction organisation, have launched their Learning in Lockdown online work experience programme, involving live broadcast interactive experiences for students. The scheme starts this week, after having applications from over 300 schools and thousands of students. Speakers For Schools has also brought forward the launch of their own Virtual Work Experience programme to help connect employers with students who are in need of this provision. Over 180 students have signed up already, along with providers such as Cisco, Opera Holland Park, Marie Curie and BP.

And Future First have the joined the party! We’ve created our own virtual work experience week to give students an insight into working at a charity like Future First. On each day throughout the week, students have the chance to ‘meet’ a Future First team member through our video series, and are then given a task relating to that team member’s role. There are a range of activities to do, from sorting data for Laura, our Director of Operations and Finance, to writing social media posts for our Regional Lead, Nat. These activities will help students build on the skills and experience they’d need for many careers, not just the charity sector. And if you send your completed Student Workbook in to us, we’ll send you a certificate!

We’ve also asked the fantastic former students of our schools to create work experience profiles offering advice on what students can do during and after lockdown to gain experience for various sectors. A Deck Officer advises students to gain knowledge of first aid during lockdown, while a marketer recommends using free online design courses. If you’re a former student who could support students at your old school with work experience, we need you! There are lots of ways you can help, from recording day-in-the-life videos to setting tasks relating to your job which students could complete and get feedback on. Simply sign up or login to your alumni network and go to ‘Get Involved’ in your profile to get in touch with your school.

We cannot stress enough how valuable work experience is as students enter the world of work. After all, it’s is the sixth Gatsby Benchmark of a good careers education for a reason. For students, it’s a nerve-wracking but thoroughly worthwhile rite of passage. Let’s ensure that the pandemic doesn’t mean they miss out!

Contact Future First to discuss work experience and how alumni can support your school with access to relatable role models and engagements with the world of work.