Virtual Work Experience is making career development more inclusive
In this month’s Employability blog, Alex Mayes, Responsible Business Manager at employer partner Kenny Waste Management shares his insights on the benefits of Virtual Work Experience…
The way we enter work is changing…
The world of work is evolving quickly. The COVID-19 pandemic has embedded significant changes within the workplace, during an exceptionally short period of adjustment, both in policy and culture.
During recruitment, employers have always looked for evidence of a candidate’s experience applying important skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, and initiative. Work experience placements are often a way for students to bridge the gap between gaining those skills and practising them in a more permanent position.
Traditionally, work experience has consisted of one or two weeks in an office, often unpaid and largely determined by a student’s family connections. That short time frame meant it was unlikely students would be offered significant work within the business, and opportunities to stretch skills and progress were limited.
As a consequence of the pandemic, work experience placements were digitalised and a new type of work experience was created, Virtual Work Experience (VWEX). VWEX enables students to gain work insights and learn new skills, developing your ‘employability’ from the comfort of your own home.
Some VWEX programmes can be as quick as a day or two, but others can last up to two weeks. They may contain pre-recorded webinars, virtual tours, employer Q&A sessions, and live projects to work on as a team.
A new world of opportunities…
Many large organisations now offer VWEX, and these opportunities are posted on the ‘Careers’ sections of their corporate websites. It’s important to spend time researching companies you want to work for, as the vast majority ran successful programmes last year and will be looking to replicate that success in future years.
There are also specialised platforms hosting work experience across a wide range of sectors all over the UK. These platforms include Speakers4Schools, Springpod, and The Careers & Enterprise Company. Register and they will notify you when opportunities are posted.
A simple search of the internet will also provide a wide range of VWEX options. Most are open to everyone, with some requiring bespoke applications to be submitted and a few requiring payments to participate.
Supercharge your ambition…
VWEX opportunities now exist around the world. Being virtual means that location won’t limit your options. International companies will be running VWEX placements and you can meet with other aspiring professionals from all over the world.
Some older computers lack an inbuilt microphone or camera. Webcams are increasingly affordable and will transform your experience. Being on a camera can feel uncomfortable, but this experience will help you in any job interview. This can give an example of a challenge you have overcome and prepare you for video interviews in the future.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money and being visible and heard is worth the investment to make the most of your experience. If cost is a significant barrier, keep an eye out for funding opportunities.
Take the programme seriously. Don’t forget that this is your opportunity to impress a future employer. Having your camera off, not contributing to the messages in the chat, or not helping in team tasks will only prevent you getting the most from the programme.
Being online, it can be tempting to get distracted by social media or film streaming and miss out on the best bits. The power of VWEX relies on you acting as if you were in a real-world workplace, as there many examples of candidates securing a place on a full-time position after impressing employers with their work, attitude, and timekeeping.
VWEX programmes run at various points in the year, but usually around term dates. You will find plenty of options during half terms, or during the summer break. Take advantage of the benefits of working from home and consider doing more than one VWEX programme.
Creating a future with Kenny Waste Management
In 2021, Kenny Waste Management partnered with The Manchester College and ran a 5-day VWEX event for marketing and business students. The students undertook a ‘live brief’ to determine whether a new product or service would be a worthwhile business opportunity. This prepared students to work in small teams to formulate their plans. All teams then presented their work to the speakers and received feedback which could help them in future.
Guy Worsick, Employability and Partnerships Co-Ordinator at The Manchester College, who led the experience commented:
The employability support, industry knowledge, and experience that we provided gave students valuable insight to help them shape their own futures. Thank you and well done to all involved!
As you settle into your course, start to think about how you can enhance your course, build your CV, and boost your skills to get ready for your future. VWEX is an excellent option, and the sooner you start your search the better your chances will be.
Find out more about Work Experience with Kenny Waste Management at: https://www.kennywastemanagement.co.uk/3662-2/