Like the economy, the pandemic crippled education, cutting off the professional learning channels of young people in the UK. Lots of questions are being asked per young people’s aspiring life, including what they think and how they can catch up with the lost time.
Fortunately, pandemic exposure has imposed a concept, Virtual Work Experience (VWEX), an opportunity for online mobile learning.
Amidst this period of uncertainty, Speakers for Schools research studied 2,000 young people in the age bracket ‘11-19’, 100 business leaders and 100 MPs, to find out young people’s attitude towards education and their prospective labour life post-COVID in the UK. The survey also reveals what employers and politicians think about the pandemic effect on young people.
What Are Young People Doing About Their Professional Future?
We do not expect young people to fully understand or think critically about the COVID setbacks following the lockdown, closure of schools, and restrictions on in-person and travel activities.
Nonetheless, young people within 16-19 facing the challenges within the past few months consider mental health very important to reconcile for the lost time. However, professional work experience remains a priority. Besides, 53-63 per cent of young people within the 16-19 age bracket think getting work experience is important to groom their confidence.
Per this finding, 47-55 per cent of young people within the 16-19 age bracket mention accessibility to work experience opportunities as the major setback. Thankfully, VWEX is designed to fix the many problems discouraging young people from leveraging work experience opportunities.
What Employers and Politicians Are Thinking
Recall that this survey covered UK employers and politicians. Employers (91%) and politicians (95%) admit that COVID lockdown impacts young people have been ‘moderately to significantly’.
- Employers: 67% of the surveyed employers think confidently about the hopes, needs, and aspirations of young people under 18. However, only 23% of young people believe that employers understand their hopes, needs and aspirations. We may explain the disparity between what employees and young people think of each other in the light that 66% of employers learn about young people through personal relationships with friends and family, meaning that the insights might not be accurate.
- Politicians: 87% of politicians think they understand the needs, hopes, and aspirations of young people. However, only 11% of young people believe politicians understand their hopes, needs and aspirations well. More politicians are keen on connecting with young minds for actionable data.
However, the disparity between politicians and young people is because 84-86% of politicians gain insights into young people from family, friends, schools or contact with constituents. Politicians can expand their contact sources to gather insights outside the traditional networks.
The Importance of Virtual Work Experience for the Post- COVID Recovery and
Virtual work experience brings several positives:
- VWEX is a recovery option. Young people may not be the only party who think work experience is important for them. Employers and politicians think so too. The survey reveals that employers see work experience as the most helpful catch-up activity whilst politicians think it is the most helpful non-academic activity to recover from the thorns of COVID-19.
- Convenient meeting channel. Traditional work experience would be significantly hindered by lockdown laws, travel restrictions and suggested social distancing. However, virtual work experience resolves the problem of meeting up. Employers and young people can merely meet online from anywhere.
- Geography and cost. Virtual WEX eliminates the geographical problems, such that young people do not have to travel long distances to participate in work experience opportunities. By meeting from home or work, young people save costs.
- VWEX brings flexibility. Virtual work experience online is flexible and allows employers to upscale their outreach for more placements. It, thus, expands the catchment area to accommodate young people in the UK.
What Can Be Done to Encourage Young People?
Young people need encouragement to survive the impactful waves of coronavirus. Thankfully, there are many positives in their favour. 90% of surveyed politicians admit that young people need government support to recover from the pandemic.
With the existence of a non-profit organisation such as Speakers for School, the government can comfortably make virtual work experiences accessible by every young person in the UK.
One would wonder why certain organisations need backup. Speakers for Schools, for example, network with more than 700 employers and work with nearly 4,000 state secondary schools and colleges.
In the past few months, there have been more than 56,000 online placements through the VWEX programme with plans to increase the number going forward and capitalise on its recent programme success.
VWEX, unlike traditional work experience, closes the post-COVID gap, getting employers and young people closer than ever and serving as an insightful channel. When a young person participates in a work experience online, it informs employers deeply about their aspirations, creating an insightful data channel.
The political sphere is not left out; they also encourage virtual training to boost confidence, perhaps, building more potential innovators to carry the UK forward.