Digital solutions mean students can still explore world of work

From virtual construction sites to YouTube careers talks, innovative ways are being found to give young people careers inspiration during lockdown.

Employers might not be able to meet students to promote the job opportunities where they live, but they are coming up with digital solutions to ensure they are not distanced from vital experience and advice.

These imaginative responses to the COVID-19 crisis are being backed by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which encourages organisations to offer work placements and link up with schools and colleges as part of its Youth Pledge.

The initiative aims to ensure every young person in Norfolk and Suffolk receives the support they need to get into education, employment, training or an apprenticeship.

More than 30 Year 10 and Year 12 students from schools in the region had been due to take part in work experience placements with Morgan Sindall Construction this term, but social distancing meant these had to be cancelled.

Determined that the students could still gain a taste of the industry and secure some valuable work experience, the company’s team in the East has launched a new digital work experience programme.

Pioneered by Helen Clements, Morgan Sindall Construction’s community investment advisor in the region, the week-long Virtual Work Experience initiative will see students log in using Google Classroom. They will then take part in digital challenges and tasks before presenting a final project to an expert panel, including Morgan Sindall Construction’s senior team.

Created in collaboration with Speakers for Schools, the charity founded by ITV’s political editor Robert Peston, the programme will get students working together to design a building. They will be supported by experts from Morgan Sindall Construction’s team and volunteers from the built environment, including Concertus, MCW Architects and Superstructure, who will be on hand to provide expert guidance and support with elements of their project.

Helen Clements said: “It’s more important than ever that industry is doing whatever it takes to reach out to young people and offer them the opportunity to learn more about key sectors. Work experience plays such an important role in giving young people the chance to develop new skills and gain real world insight and experience which will improve their employability and enhance their career prospects in the longer term.

“Our programme will call on a number of skills, including maths, digital design, science, English and art, and will also require students to work collaboratively with their colleagues during the week. We’re over the moon to be able to offer students this opportunity and we can’t wait to see the final building designs they come up with over the week!”

Figures from chief executives of local businesses to a crown court judge and a fashion model are meanwhile taking part in a series of virtual Q&As called Careers & Coffee. The live YouTube sessions are being hosted twice a week by Jordan Holder from the New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network to highlight different career paths and how to pursue them.

Jordan’s first guest was Helen Clements, who supports the delivery of the LEP’s sector skills plan through her role as chair of its Construction Sector Skills Group.

“My role is all about bridging the gap between education and business and tackling social mobility, and I’m determined to ensure that students have meaningful encounters with the world of work, even when they are at home,” said Jordan.

“So, I am going to be talking to a whole range of people about their careers and lives and the skills they think students need to have to really succeed in the workplace.”

While many doors continue to be locked during the Coronavirus pandemic, young people can take virtual tours of various organisations and hear from some of those who work there.

BT, Ipswich Building Society, Ipswich Town Football Club, Morgan Sindall Construction and Suffolk County Council can all be explored at icanbea.org.uk/virtual-tours. The videos were funded through the Ipswich Opportunity Area, which aims to ensure all children and young people in the town fulfil their potential and access the opportunities available to them, regardless of their background.

You can join Jordan’s Careers & Coffee sessions via the New Anglia LEP channel on YouTube every Tuesday and Thursday from 12.30pm to 1pm.

To find out more about Ipswich Opportunity Area go to ipswichopportunityarea.co.uk

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