12 June, 2020
Young people in lockdown are facing many significant challenges. But the shutting down of vital work experience opportunities does not have to be one of them.
Careers organisation, Speakers for Schools, is working with top employers, from Cisco to Tesco, to offer virtual work experience programmes during lockdown. While some practical elements of working life will necessarily be missing for successful applicants, these programmes offer young people a view into the workings of a company, access to business leaders and mentors, and real-world projects to work on.
Bringing these programmes online also has the advantage of increasing access. For too long, many opportunities have been inequitably allocated through informal networks, on the merit of advantages that a minority already possess, and often an option only to those living, or being supported to live, in London or other urban centres. Online work experience means openly advertising positions, selecting candidates without problematic in-person meetings, and total geographic freedom to take on the work.
However, while virtual work experience could help open doors for some people, there are many who will still be shut out of the system. This is where organisations like Career Ready play an important role in breaking down inequality and increasing access. They help the most disadvantaged to gain the skills and confidence necessary to move from the idea that work experience or apprenticeships are ‘not for me’, to applying for and taking on these opportunities.
While the workplace is out of bounds, work experience need not be.
By Ben Wood