5 ways to attract school students virtually

Feb 10, 2021 | Apprentices & school leaver | 1 comment

Student insights help inform how employers can attract school students virtually, explains Annabel Hooper from Uptree.

2020 was a real challenge. Schools across the country closed, students were home-schooled to varying degrees and social distancing meant that many of the usual attraction events were impossible to deliver in a conventional way.

Because of this, it’s been more important than ever to listen to the voice of our student network, to create inspiring and fun virtual attraction strategies that work to equal effect as face-to-face delivery.

Drawing on recent feedback from Uptree student ambassadors, here are five ways to attract school students virtually:


1. Professional networking online

In previous years, in-school presence was typically your bread and butter for school-aged attraction. It’s about students learning of your values and feeling these in person. Whilst there’s no quick fix here, you can still replicate many elements online and we recommend doing this by running a virtual professional networking event.

So, what do school students want from these? Active learning has been a key theme in our research, with young people showing more interest in attraction events that are small-scale, interactive, offer opportunity for real-life activities, group work and a chance to speak directly to teams local to their communities.

We’d add that a robust school outreach programme, careful planning, a clear agenda, a check list of measurable goals for the day, as well as regular breaks and an awareness of accessibility are all equally important when designing an event online.


2. Deep dive into your application process

One of our student ambassadors said, “I think more information needs to be provided on online interviews and assessment centres – what platform are they on? What happens if my internet fails? These will carry on for some time and are new to most people”.

Engaging with school age talent is all about creating small, tangible steps from the curriculum to the world of work and the same applies in the virtual world. For students from under-represented groups, the jump from school to applications can be incredibly daunting. So, running a follow up, or ‘reunion-style’ event, that focuses directly on the nuances of your recruitment process can really help to drive attraction and engagement.

So what could an agenda look like?

  • Guidance on changes to remote interviews and assessment centres
  • Support on how to read contracts and documentation
  • Understanding what needs to be done to succeed in online applications
  • Lessons on how to send professional emails
  • Talks on the changes in expectations from school to work
  • Active learning: a chance to practise CV and application writing skills in small groups
  • Breaking down internal language and jargon around apprenticeships and off-the-job training.


3. Touch points and crib sheets

With the relationship between social mobility and digital poverty deep rooted during this time, it’s important to take steps to mitigate any loss of information virtually due to poor internet connection. Our tip is to provide a crib sheet as a follow up from attraction events that contain key takeaways and follow up activities. This will allow young audiences to relax on the day and focus on listening to your staff and volunteers.

Downloadable crib sheets also act as a secondary step to support access for those with additional learning needs, who may need more time during or after an event to work through the day’s activities. We’d add that a consideration of digital inequalities in the early stage planning of any virtual attraction programme is really important if you are looking to reach under-represented groups.


4. Pre-recorded content

One of our student ambassadors said, “Companies and universities should make sure they let us know a pre-set plan for learning and work ahead of time, so we know what to expect. It’s hard when everything is constantly changing.”

Whilst video conferencing tools allow us to reach students in a creative and impactful way, making available a suite of pre-recorded careers content is equally important when attracting school age talent virtually.

We launched our Uptree Careers Learning Programme this year to address the needs of our teacher network, who are often time-strapped and need static resources to slot into lesson time. Having a centralised hub of information, consisting of bite-sized lessons, employer-led content and topics ranging from wellbeing to onboarding, is also a great way to attract school students virtually. This is because it provides an easy way to continue careers education whilst home schooling.


5. Virtual work experience

One of our student ambassadors said, “My company puts in a half-hour each day on Zoom to have a tea break with other apprentices which has been really helpful in making friends and feeling comfortable”.

Our recent survey of 16-20 years olds found that interactive engagements such as longer work experiences were rated the highest in terms of popularity.

Uptree would recommend a virtual internship to be anything from one to two weeks in duration and to be designed to encourage students to apply for entry-level roles at your company in the future.

For example, if you have apprenticeship roles starting in September, a great way to attract school age talent is to build a sustainable outreach programme with a year 12 virtual insight week the summer before, as it’s at this point in the school calendar year when many young people are making key decisions around university vs apprenticeships.

Virtual internships also have the benefit of creating internal buy-in from stakeholders, as they provide a light touch and non-committal way to let school students evidence their own value and the benefits they can bring to a team over the course of a couple of weeks.

Uptree shared their ideas on engaging with schools and students in a virtual world at the ISE Apprenticeship Conference.

More information and take part in ISE’s 2021 events programme.

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1 Comment

  1. Jerry

    5 great points Annabel. It has been interesting to see how employers have adapted to the ‘new normal’ and will continue to be so when we regain some normality in our everyday working lives again. I think there is a lot to be said for a combination of virtual and face to face attraction events working in tandem as we move forward.

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