Young people are going to feel the full force of COVID-19 for years to come and Northampton College is looking to work with local businesses to make sure students don’t miss out on the opportunity to gain vital ‘real world’ experience.
The past year has seen students switch to online learning, on one hand showcasing their adaptability and resilience but also meaning many have been unable to benefit from industry placements and work experience programmes which are so crucial to their development.
Latest research shows that two thirds of employers rate work experience as being of significant or critical value for young entrants to the labour market and half of employers believe a top priority for schools and colleges should be developing awareness of working life with support from businesses.
Principal of Northampton College, Pat Brennan-Barrett said: “We recognise the need for students to get tangible experience of the workplace to help prepare them for their future careers and make sure they are ready to hit the ground running when they get an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.
“We want to engage our learners with local employers, providing them with opportunities and giving you the chance to showcase your business to potential future employees.”
Work experience placements, as well as employer workshops and taster sessions, can be hugely valuable to young people transitioning from education into the world of work – and indeed for those re-entering the workplace or looking to move into new industries.
For young people in particular, it can provide direction with careers decisions, and help them to gain the skills and experience necessary to enter the working world.
In the 2020 Youth Voice Census, 86 per cent of the young people surveyed felt that work experience helped them to make decisions about their futures, while 45 per cent cited a lack of experience as their key barrier to gaining employment.
Furthermore, among those surveyed who had spent time not in education or employment (NEET), increased access to work experience was identified as a key element of support that they wished to receive.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the ability of employers to deliver work experience programmes and placements – with social distancing, additional health and safety measures, furlough schemes and remote working making it highly impractical for young people to go into workplaces for planned in-person experiences.
The Sutton Trust found that between March and July last year, 61 per cent of employers cancelled some or all of their placements, with only about a third of firms continuing to offer their usual placements either inperson or online.
Moreover, with increased lockdown measures across much of the country and continued economic uncertainty, almost half of surveyed organisations anticipated that there will be fewer such opportunities within their businesses over the course of the next year.
With restrictions likely to be in place for many months, we need new, agile and responsive thinking on ways for young people to gain knowledge of new industries, and to gain valuable skills and experience – without being physically present.
The College is putting together a schedule of events from now until June 2021 across all areas of the college curriculum, most of which will be held online via Microsoft Teams or as pre-recorded videos.
Would you or a colleague love to share your daily working life or perhaps be a guest speaker sharing your experiences from leaving education to navigating your chosen career path?
Perhaps you would consider delivering a masterclass or even, COVID permitting, allowing a small group of students to visit your premises and discover what life in their chosen sector really looks like?
Northampton College is keen to investigate any suggestions for engagement you might have and would love to hear from you if you have any ideas or would like to get involved. Just 15 minutes of your time could be all it takes to attract young people into your sector and give them a better understanding of the careers available to them.
For more information, with no obligation, get in touch by calling Northampton College’s Business Centre on 01604 734323 or visiting www.northamptoncollege.ac.uk/businessplacements or arranging a visit in person