Work experience is generally accept to be a potentially formative time for school pupils, faced with important decisions about future career choices. However, it is one of the many valuable things that most young people have lost since the pandemic spread.
Most, but not all, because some companies are offering virtual work experience.
For example, last month Amey delivered a virtual work experience programme for 24 students across the UK to provide an insight into its Highways business.
For three days, the students aged between 14 and 18 worked with Amey contract teams in Staffordshire, Sheffield Streets Ahead and Kent to find out what they do and the different roles on each contract, touching on everyday maintenance, scheme works and innovations.
Students were split into teams and across the three days were tasked with reviewing the Sheffield Streets Ahead winter service and reporting back with suggestions on how to improve four areas: finance, health & safety, environment and communications. On the final afternoon each team was given the opportunity to present their ideas to an Amey panel.
To guide the students, 20 staff from across the Amey contracts gave talks on each topic and dropped into the breakout groups to offer support.
The students were also taught presentation skills ahead of presenting to the Amey panel.
One of the students commented: “The experience was excellent, and my honest opinion was I thought this experience was going to be so boring as it was online. But you did the impossible and you made this experience so interactive and taught us so much that will hopefully help us in the future.”
The students were also offered careers guidance, with sessions including CV writing and interview practice.
Another company taking work experience online is GT3 Architects, whose physical offices are in Nottingham and Newcastle. It has set up a virtual work experience for students interested in design and the built environment but unable to undertake studio placements due to Covid-19.
The aim GT3’s virtual work experience programme is to highlight the different routes into a creative career within the built environment. The work experience here, also aimed at students aged 14-18, lasts for five working days (typically Monday to Friday), and is conducted via Microsoft Teams. Guided by GT3 specialists, students are asked to deliver their own design project, specialising in one of three potential career paths: architecture, interior design and graphic design.
Judith Atkinson, project architect at GT3, said: “We know this has been an extremely difficult academic year for students undertaking their GCSEs and A-Levels and we hope that this experience will help them make informed choices about their career.
“When I was 15 I did a week’s work experience in an architects’ office, which confirmed my suspicions that architecture was the career for me. I really enjoyed being part of the office, even just for the week. I loved the work they did and the atmosphere of the place.”
The first half of the work experience concentrates on the content of an exhibition, centred around their own interests, and students meet the team and learn more about the design process. The latter half of the week allows the student to develop their project using their chosen design stream, developing an architectural project (designing the building), an interiors project (designing the space), or a graphics project (designing the artwork).
Students are introduced to GT3 staff who share their own experience and advice. The week is also filled with ‘practice tasks’, designed to introduce students to office culture, such as attending meetings, and will include an hour-long career talk with a GT3 professional from a discipline of their choice.
Liz Clarke, people champion at GT3 Architects, added: “By inviting students to share a week with us we hope to encourage, inform and inspire the next generation of design professionals. As a practice we care about developing the next generation of designers and we’ve always endeavoured to foster an engaging environment for our work experience students.
“Inviting students in has big benefits for us too, as we hear fresh ideas and unique inputs into the design projects so we can’t wait to virtually host our first students.”