Commentary

How virtual employer engagement is helping young people amid the Covid-19 lockdown

Experiences of the world of work are crucially important for inspiring, motivating, and informing young people about their future career options. This is especially significant in the context of the current uncertainty in the labour market, but for many school pupils around the UK, Covid-19 lockdown measures have meant that prearranged work experience placements have been unable to take place this term. In these new circumstances, we must consider new ways to help them engage in work-related learning.

This week (8th-12th June), Oak National Academy and The Careers and Enterprise Company are holding a virtual careers week, aiming to inspire and prepare young people for the world of work, with a number of major employers virtually ‘opening their doors’ to young people in the ‘My Week of Work’ initiative. Such virtual employer encounters have also formed part of Education Development Trust’s approach to its work-related learning provision in recent weeks.

In May – in just two weeks – our dedicated Work-Related Learning team developed and delivered 25 new digital work experience sessions for students. During the Zoom-based online workshops, students were able to engage with employers from various industries, including engineering, education, finance, and the media. Each employer provided students with a brief overview of their industry, as well as their own roles, responsibilities and personal career journey, and explained the skills and qualifications that new entrants to the industry would need. Students were also given an opportunity to ask questions to these professionals, and many students commented that after attending the virtual employer engagement sessions, they were motivated to conduct more research into the respective sector.

This new model of delivering employer experiences is not merely helpful to those who are missing in-person work experience placements this summer, but may also be a valuable addition to employer engagement and work-related learning in the slightly longer term. Moving forward, social distancing and increased health and safety measures may impact upon work placement feasibility for some time, and after months of closures, schools and colleges may well be reluctant to allow students more time away from the classroom to attend placements.

Education Development Trust is therefore considering offering further virtual employer engagement as part of its work-related learning services to schools and colleges moving forwards.

To find out more about our careers and employability services, click here.