Young people across the UK have continued to gain access to workplace and careers-related learning through a boom in virtual work experience opportunities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Young people have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 restrictions, suffering major disruption to their education and reduced opportunities for in-person extra-curricular activities. However, since the pandemic, Virtual Work Experience (VWEX) has become a lifeline to those looking for involvement in the professional world while adhering to all guidelines and staying safe.
According to figures from Speakers for Schools, an education charity run by ITV political journalist, Robert Peston, the number of work experience placements rose by 5,890 in the year April 2020 to March 2021 despite the pandemic. Of the new placements created, 71% were virtual work experience.
With many businesses obliged to furlough staff between April 2020 and March 2021, some industries were better placed than others to make the shift towards virtual outreach activities and pave the way for others to follow. Construction was one such industry, which not only continued to operate, but also embraced the potential of Virtual Work Experience to raise awareness among young people about the range of careers on offer, with a total of over 1,800 work experience placements delivered during the height of the pandemic.
In many locations and industries, the new virtual delivery model for work experience has transformed early outreach programmes for companies. VWEX has allowed employers to substantially increase the number of placements delivered and significantly improve their geographical reach, providing greater opportunities to learners regardless of their location. For example, music streaming service Spotify, which has its UK base in London, was able to increase its work placements opportunities by over 40 times the previous year’s total.
Despite an end to government guidance to work from home coming on 19th July, Speakers for Schools anticipate that virtual work experience will continue beyond the pandemic.
All the employers who hosted VWEX placements through the charity over the course of the pandemic have indicated that Virtual Work Experience will form a core part of their outreach activities going forwards, with most anticipating they will adopt a hybrid approach post-pandemic.