Lockdown has seen many young people miss out on the opportunity to gain useful work experience. Many will be worried that their CV will be lacking, and, as a result, will reduce their chances of entering university and/or the world of work. However, many employers, colleges and universities are being creative in making sure students still get the experience they need.
According to the social mobility charity The Sutton Trust, around 70,000 real world internships are taken in the UK every year. That helps to put into perspective just how many people will be affected by the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
We’ve put together some of the ways you can support your students and the benefits of taking work experience at this time.
To help local businesses and students during this difficult time, some universities are offering digital work experience. Assignments can be sent out via email and group work can be done over WhatsApp and video calls. Employers can regularly touch base with students by arranging video meetings to track their progress. Here are some examples of where students can find internships during the lockdown and social distancing measures:
- A virtual work experience programme, ‘Learning in Lockdown’, was launched by Scape Group in May. The programme offered students aged 14-15 a week-long remote work experience placement where they had the chance to work with industry professionals, as well as work in groups with other young people. Once completed, students received the Silver Industrial Cadets Award. There was a huge response to this offering, so registrations are now closed – but you can still register your interest here to be considered for future programmes.
- Bath Spa University have launched a digital internship programme. This scheme gives the opportunity for businesses to take on a Bath Spa University student for a remote project, with the students’ wages fully subsidised. The projects are to be no more than 50 hours in total meaning up to 15 hours per week in term time. The completion date for students is 31 July 2020.Find more information here.
- Development Beyond Learning (DBL) are virtualising internships during the covid-19 crisis. They aim to provide access and insight into businesses through 60-90 minute virtual sessions, ‘micro-experiences’, and bespoke tasks. To find out more, fill out the form on the DBL website.
Although not the traditional workplace experience, a digital placement will teach young people a lot of transferable skills. Last year, the Trades Union Congress, estimated that 373,000 more employees are working from home in the UK than 10 years ago. This is a 27% increase, and one that has rocketed since March of this year. In a world where flexible hours and working remotely is becoming more common, a digital internship will teach students how to work away from an office and discipline themselves.
Why this works for employers
This system has its benefits for the employer too. Companies don’t need to clear extra desk space for the intern or pay for their travel or food. But more importantly, it lets a business cast a wider net for future employees and choose from a wider demographic. Often it is only people who can afford to take a low paid, or even unpaid, internship, but this allows companies to find the best possible candidate, regardless of their circumstances.
Other types of experience
If your students are unable to secure a digital internship, there are other ways they can gain useful, transferable skills. Lockdown is the perfect time for our young people to learn what they may not have had time to learn before. Advise your students to start cooking for their families a few times a week. This will set them up nicely for leaving home, whether that’s for university or a job, and will help them with organisation and budgeting. Students will also be spending a lot more time inside with their families, so advise them to learn from their parents and siblings. This might be a language, painting, sewing, finance, or music. Whatever it is, having an extra skill or hobby on their CV will make them more interesting to an employer.
An unprecedented crisis calls for creative solutions, and that’s exactly what we see here. Although there won’t be the usual face-to-face interaction, students don’t need to miss out on gaining valuable work experience this summer. Encouraging your students to get involved in these schemes will boost their understanding of the workplace, confidence, and, most importantly, it will make them more employable in the future.