Why virtual work experience will continue to grow in 2022

Feb 15, 2022 | Work experience/internships

The pandemic has seen virtual work experience become more popular. Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent at Connectr explains its advantages and why it is one of early talent’s hottest topics.

The last 18 months has seen a rise in virtual work experience, bringing benefits for students, schools and employers. So, why are these programmes growing in popularity, and what does the future have in store for work experience?

Virtual work experience – what are the advantages?

Moving traditional work experience programmes online removes geographical restrictions. Employers can now reach young people based anywhere and engage underrepresented talent which has historically been inaccessible.  There is no reason why students in Cornwall can’t take online work experience placements in London or Edinburgh. There are no limits.

Organisations which proactively develop their virtual work experience programmes can benefit from a larger, more diverse pool of talent. By moving programmes online, this talent pool becomes even bigger.

Virtual programmes are also valuable in offering new opportunities to young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, providing schools in deprived areas with the resources they need to help students develop and realise their full potential.

The principles of virtual work experience

There are two types of virtual work experience– ‘live’ and ‘always on’.

‘Live’ work experience incorporates real-time talks and presentations, giving young people direct contact with experts. This provides a platform to ask questions and learn through their experience.

‘Always on’ work experience, sometimes known as ‘open access’, provides learning materials which can be accessed at any time.

Programmes incorporating both types of experience are particularly valuable, as they help schools meet their Gatsby benchmarks. For the same reason, schools favour virtual work experience programmes which give students direct access to employers.

Yet, there are numerous work experience programmes which don’t offer two-way conversation. Content is provided for students by employers, without any further contact. This approach does not aid Gatsby targets and it doesn’t offer young people any real-life experience.

‘Live’ conversations during virtual work experience are also essential for businesses to develop meaningful connections with the next generation of talent. Two key elements of a strong candidate experience are transparency and authenticity. Research indicates candidates trust a company’s workforce three times more than the business itself. So, real-life interactions between students and employees are essential to attracting young people for future roles.


Challenges with virtual work experience

Virtual work experience is changing the way students, schools and organisations connect. But there are still challenges to address.

Access to technology is still a major barrier when implementing virtual work experience programmes. There are many young people who don’t have access to a computer. Or if they do, it’s often shared between a whole household.

Bandwidth is another issue. This especially impacts students living in remote areas. These students may not have the broadband strength to connect with mentors, complete online modules and access content.

However, ‘digital poverty’ has improved recently, offering hope that these challenges may one day be a thing of the past. Schools have been given funding to provide laptops for their students. Some organisations have also taken a proactive approach to fighting this challenge. For example, Deloitte has provided students on their work experience programme with the tech they need to succeed.

What will virtual work experience look like in the future?

The working world has changed forever. In many cases, this has been for the better. More than ever before, people don’t need to work in the same area as their company to be productive and efficient.

Work experience helps young people to understand more about the world of work. With a great deal of work now happening online, it makes sense that work experience programmes fit this trend. It is those employers that take a strategic approach to virtual work experience that will benefit from the huge advantages it offers when it comes to reaching and attracting diverse talent.

Read more data and advice on virtual work experience

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