work experience

Founded in 2010 by the political editor of ITV, Robert Peston, Speakers for Schools has matched students with employers for over 10 years with work experience placements. With over 1,000,000 placements already under their belt, the pandemic threw a curveball to employers and students who were seeking placements. Speakers for Schools have now released data showing how they have adapted to the ‘new normal’.

While virtual work experience was not unheard of pre-COVID, it was definitely not the most popular option. In the last year, thousands of organisations who never believed they could operate remotely have been forced to do so and survived, even thrived, throughout the pandemic. With remote working a success, virtual work experience was only a natural progression.

Across the UK, a total of 5,890 new placements were generated between April 2020-March 2021. In both England and Scotland, 100% of these placements were virtual work experience, opening doors to record numbers of young people who would have previously missed out due to their location.

Based in London, Spotify increased its placements by 4,168%. Being in the city, many students were previously unable to undertake work experience with this well-known brand. But with location no longer being an issue, young minds have been eager to work with the music streaming service.

Nearly a quarter of students surveyed by the ONS declared the most worrying element of the pandemic for them is the negative impact on their education. The worrying statistic that 24% of 18-year-olds were unemployed at the end of last year reflected the vast numbers of missed opportunities over the last 12 months.

With the continuing success of virtual work experience, it is hoped that these numbers will reduce as more students become aware of this new way to undertake placements. Interestingly, 100% of students who took part in virtual work experience over the last year were from state schools.

Pupils from disadvantaged areas are commonly victims to lower employment rates and poorer exam results. When the government announced that A-level results were to be generated through predicted grades and teacher judgement, 10% of students from these areas saw their results downgraded.

Without the desired results, young people have found it difficult to continue the pathway they had hoped. Virtual work experience is allowing these students to re-open these avenues and even pursue new ones.


Why Is Virtual Work Experience Increasingly Popular?

A True Insight

By undertaking work experience, students can get a real feel as to what a role is like and the type of people they would be working with. Even factors like hours, pressure and physical and mental strain can be revealed.

With this, students can have a better understanding before any big decision is made. From applying for roles, undertaking a lengthy apprenticeship and applying for university. If the wrong decision is made, a lot of time, money and effort is wasted.

Professional Skills

Going straight from school into the working world can be a shock to some. Workplace etiquette and expectations are always higher than in the classroom.

Virtual work experience helps young learners understand what is expected of them when they do land their first role. This isn’t just for that dream career. Most of us start our lives in the world of work in retail and hospitality and work experience can help us learn those important people skills needed for these.

This new knowledge can also be used for job interviews. Job interviews are daunting even to the most seasoned candidates. So, school work experience can help give some confidence for that first interview.

Location Isn’t a Problem

Once upon a time, the best and most sought after work experience placements were reserved for those students who lived near or were able to commute to big cities. The majority of head offices are located in these areas.

Since the pandemic hit, virtual work experience has been on the rise and it looks like it’s here to stay. Online work experience allows students to undertake a placement anywhere in the country or even the world.

No longer are rural students penalized for where they live, they can ‘work’ in London or any other large city, but from the comfort of their own home.

Building a C.V

Landing a role after leaving education can be difficult without relevant experience. Part-time jobs while at school can be a good experience and show employers that a student has worked. But it doesn’t always show the right experience in certain fields.

Work experience is a great way to show recruiters a passion and eagerness for a role and can put candidates ahead of others when applying for jobs. It also allows candidates to add another reference.

Speakers for Schools are pushing to get this new placement scheme known across the country and open up opportunities to students from all backgrounds and locations. While there have been very few positives from the pandemic, the rise in virtual work experience has allowed thousands of young people to catch up and continue that missed education and experiences.