How Vodafone has reimagined work experience
Vodafone explains how it transformed its work experience opportunities for school students during the pandemic.
Work experience is widely understood as being an essential step for young students to develop the necessary skills and insight to shape their future careers.
Encouraged by careers leaders, schools have also made it a priority, carving out week-long periods to give pupils the opportunity to visit workplaces and test-drive a future career.
In more ordinary times, large-scale organisations, including Vodafone, would host hundreds of students each year through in-person work experience or job-shadowing programmes to facilitate this demand.
Like many other organisations, Vodafone had to unexpectedly halt upcoming programmes and events in response to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the pause in activity presented a unique opportunity – a chance to entirely rethink the company’s work experience strategy and programme offering.
Rethinking work experience
The first step to adapting the strategy was understanding how the new climate was impacting the attitudes and beliefs about work experience from the perspective of students. Using a combination of research and direct insight from schools, it was abundantly clear that:
- A lack of work experience was believed to be the biggest barrier to gaining employment
- Students were calling for increased opportunities to develop skills and careers education
- Individuals from low social mobility and ethnic minority backgrounds were amongst the highest groups lacking access to work experience opportunities
Using this insight, Vodafone developed a new agenda focused on supporting students with gaining employability skills and careers awareness. The strategy also paid attention to uplifting representation of females, ethnic minorities and students from low social mobility backgrounds in technology and on youth programmes.
Work Experience in a virtual world
With a defined vision in place, Vodafone needed a pandemic-proof solution that could withstand the uncertainty of lockdown restrictions. With the help of Springpod, an online careers platform connecting students with employers, a solution was found.
Designed to spark an interest in technology, the programme offered students the chance to work on developing an Internet of Things device whilst learning about the variety of business areas involved in the process. Students attended a series of live webinars, panel discussions and modular learning content with daily business-related assignments such as concept ideation, product pricing, and social media advertising.
Unlike in-person experiences pre-pandemic that typically offered exposure to a one job role, Innovators was able to provide a breadth of experience across twelve business areas, including technology, digital, marketing, commercial and consumer services. In addition, students experienced careers workshops to develop employability skills, like personal branding, mastering an interview and building a CV that stands out.
The students’ experience
The one-week programme launched in February 2021 and saw huge demand, with over 1000 applicants from across the UK applying for 250 selected positions.
Hosting the event virtually also removed some of the existing geographic barriers, allowing Vodafone to reach students outside traditional city hubs.
This supported uplifting representation of different groups, with attendees being 54.6% female, 59.6% ethnic minority and 22.3% from low social mobility backgrounds. The programme received a rating of 8.7/10, in addition to 98% of students subsequently considering a career in Technology, and 97% interested in joining Vodafone.
To conclude, the programme demand has demonstrated a clear need for more initiatives of its kind. Students have taken careers education into their own hands and are calling for better access to opportunities across more sectors and job roles.
Not only has Innovators paved the way for operating in a new paradigm; it has completely reimagined work experience. What was once job shadowing perhaps organised by a school careers-leader, is now students taking ownership of their future pathways, and having access to countless career experiences at their fingertips.
Our key learnings – respond to the changing times, listen to your audience, and be bold in your delivery. Virtual work experience no longer seems like a ‘pandemic solution’, but perhaps a vision for future careers education.