It’s vital to make work experience succeed online

Jan 26, 2021 | Work experience/internships

A significant casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic is the amount of work experience available to students. ISE’s Stephen Isherwood explains why it’s commercially vital to employers.

Whether brewing coffee as a barista or spending the summer in a Canary Wharf skyscraper, the crisis is denying thousands of students the opportunity to experience the world of work. This could limit employers’ access to talent and hinder the careers of the covid class of students.

Internships decreased by 29% and work placements fell by 25% in 2020 according to the ISE annual survey.

A third of all recent job losses have been in the hospitality sector, where students typically find part-time work.

Resolution Foundation research demonstrated that students who graduated in the financial crisis, 2007-11, took significantly longer to reach their potential in the labour market than their post-crash peers.

Why is this an issue for employers and what should they do about it?

“Our survey data and verbal feedback from employers shows that students with some form of work experience are more likely to get a permanent graduate level job, stay longer when hired, and out-perform their peers”, says the ISE’s Tristram Hooley.

And with history telling us that many employers experienced talent blockages after the financial crash, neglecting the career development of students now could cause problems when employers turn the hiring tap back on.

Hence the need to continue investment in early talent now and provide those essential work experience opportunities.

Locked down on an icy day in January with school closures dominating the headlines, it’s difficult to imagine a heated-up recruitment market. But the recovery will come. Employers with a drained talent pipeline in six to twelve months’ time will not have the people resources to take advantage when business starts to flood back in.

Work experience online

But even with the support of your leadership, delivering a meaningful experience with offices closed and students in lockdown is tricky.

But last summer’s experience shows us that employers can make online work experience and internships work. In 2020, IBM successfully onboarded all their placements students and AON ran a full summer internship programme.

Where full programmes were impractical, employers still provided many alternative opportunities: training, coaching, mentoring, virtual projects can all be delivered to a high standard online.

A week’s worth of workshops cannot match six-weeks on-the-job, but managers can still coach students who can still work on client-related projects. After all, with remote working likely to become the new normal for many, you will be giving students the skills they need to thrive in the post pandemic workplace.

Motivating students

Another learning from the financial crash is that students can disengage if they think there are no jobs.

We must continue to encourage students to stay engaged in the jobs market and search for innovative ways to stay active, even though opportunities are less obvious. Those that make the most of what’s available by volunteering, taking online skills courses, tutoring others, are those that will be the least scarred by the pandemic.

It’s not just a sense of civic duty that should drive employers to invest in students through the pandemic, it a commercial necessity.

Read ISE Insights content on virtual internships

Was this article helpful?


Share This