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9th Mar, 2021

Gavin Beart
Gavin Beart
Job Title
Divisional Managing Director

National Careers Week spreads awareness on the importance of career guidance. During a very turbulent year, it has been difficult to predict the future, but with the reopening of schools, it is time to refocus on bright futures that students can look forward to. 

Last year, we discussed the importance of giving careers advice to children of all ages and how teachers can continue to inspire change during National Careers Week. However, the biggest change nearly everyone experienced in 2020 was adapting to remote working and learning. Which led us to wonder: could a virtual work experience be created to help students at any level?

The benefits of going virtual

We know that work experience is invaluable. It provides students with the opportunity to gain experience in the workplace, develop their skills and boost their employability. But, doing so virtually can mean students get to explore new industries and job roles in areas not previously available to them in face-to-face placements. Online learning opens these experiences up to all schools across the UK, with location no longer a limiting factor.

Remote working is highly likely to continue in business, given its flexibility and due to many industries now having the IT infrastructure in place because of the pandemic. This means learning how to conduct business effectively and work online will become an extremely valuable skill in the modern workplace. Students can future proof their careers by learning these skills early. Sought-after transferrable skills valued by employers – such as organisation, time management and self-motivation – are all part of the virtual work experience placement too.

Our virtual careers advice programme

At Reed, we have found that many schools find it difficult to help students locate valuable work experience and to deliver up-to-date careers advice.  In addition, with the economy and society still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, it is even more difficult to know how to start talking to students about careers in a positive way. 

To tackle this, we designed a comprehensive virtual careers advice programme. As expert recruiters, we know exactly what skills and knowledge are necessary to start a career in almost any sector, as well as how to apply for these roles. So, by utilising our knowledge, in combination with input from schools, we created our careers advice programme, made up of three interactive workbooks:

  • Virtual work experience week with Reed

  • Employability skills with Reed

  • Labour market information with Reed

The programme, created in partnership with the non-profit educational charitable trust, the Academies Enterprise Trust, helps schools to achieve the Gatsby benchmarks. We have had over 100 schools and trusts participate so far, with more than 15,000 pupils and learners using our programme. Tamworth Enterprise College was one of the first institutions to use the programme and it has helped its students immensely, as Principal Gemma Simon explains:

I am absolutely delighted that our Year 10 students have taken part in this excellent work experience initiative, despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought to them at this point in their education. It is fantastic - the students have engaged in learning new skills, whilst also gaining an insight into work and participating in experiences that they will remember for a very long time. We will be using this approach alongside physical workplace experiences in the future, as part of our planned careers programme, so that our students are fully prepared for the ever-changing world of work.

Of course, one of the most important factors in selecting any online learning is ensuring it is engaging, which is why we have designed our programme to be fully interactive. All our workbooks include videos from a diverse range of staff across different Reed departments, helpful links to further resources, notes sections, and relevant tasks to complete.

Our virtual work experience week even includes a warm welcome from our Chairman, James Reed. We ensure that pupils gain experience in multiple departments throughout the full week’s work experience, including finance, sales, marketing and learning and development.

However, we did not stop there. After the success of our careers programme for school students, we are expanding to create a SEND version of the virtual work experience programme, as well as e creating an NQT virtual interview experience for students at university level to get their teaching career started.

Virtual work experiences ensure the safety of students and learners, as they can complete the programme at home and comply with current restrictions. We have also ensured that students can keep our resources, with their notes, so that they can refer to them again in the future – be that researching a career path, writing a CV, or creating a cover letter.

Ultimately, understanding what a job or career entails will help students make decisions about whether that role is right for them in the future. National Careers Week is an excellent time to focus on career guidance, and we will continue to support this aim as we all move towards the “new normal”.

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