If any of us were in any doubt about the importance of giving back to the people and communities around us, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly brought it home.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) predicts youth unemployment is soon set to double, bringing the total of unemployed young people to over a million.

A recent Prince’s Trust poll of young people found that 46% of them believe finding a job now feels impossible. 63% of teachers believe that opportunities for young people to meet a range of employers from different sectors are more vital than ever (Teacher Tapp, July 2020).

We all know that education has the power to end poverty, improve health and grow economies. In short, education has the power to change the world. But the most deprived schoolchildren often don’t have the role models, support and connections they need to succeed. Doors can be closed to them before they even know they exist – and Covid-19 has only made this worse. The gaps between poor and wealthier pupils are widening drastically and the odds just got much tougher.

Supporting young people with the opportunities they deserve

At Capita, We provide essential services that impact the lives of millions of people. We want to use this platform to do the right thing, mobilising the strength of our networks and the expertise of our people.

Young people are the future leaders of our organisation. As part of our responsible business strategy, we have a commitment to drive social mobility and help young people progress towards the world of work. To support this, we partnered with Teach First to develop an exciting, comprehensive work experience programme for students who would not normally have access to this type of opportunity through their own networks.

Welcoming everyone with no barriers

Originally, we planned the programme to be a face-to-face experience, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to think again. We adapted the programme to be virtual ensuring that the pandemic wouldn’t prevent the programme going ahead.

Teach First’s mission is to ensure a fair education for all by recruiting and training teachers and placing them in schools that need them the most. Teach First took the lead on recruitment thanks to their strong relationships with schools and their ability to reach students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The programme had a strong focus on social mobility and inclusion, ensuring we had students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

We didn’t want any students to feel that they couldn’t take part in the programme because they didn’t have the right tech, so we worked with Teach First to identifyany students that needed a laptop and supplied them with one, which they could keep. All of the students were also given internet dongles so they could access all the online sessions.

Developing key skills with long-lasting impact

The programme was focused around eight key employability skills:

  1. Communication
  2. Teamwork
  3. Problem solving
  4. Self-management
  5. Planning and organisation
  6. Technology
  7. Learning
  8. Initiative and enterprise

We developed online tasks around these skills, which culminated in a presentation at the end of the week. They had to work together in small groups of five to come up with a presentation on a Covid-19 topic, which they were to present back virtually to the rest of the group at the end of the week. 

Throughout the programme, they enjoyed various activities, presentations and interactive sessions with people from around the business – so they got a taste of: the creative industry, HR, finance, legal, marketing, and comms, to name a few. Plus they engaged in smaller group activities to develop their skills, such as CV sessions, job application advice sessions to really prepare them for the world of work.

Creating positive outcomes for generations to come

Despite the challenging and ever-changing backdrop of Covid-19, with offices closing and no possibility of face-to-face interaction, we still managed to plan and run the programme successfully. And we learnt that there are many benefits to the virtual experience.

With no location or travel restrictions holding them back, even more young people can be supported to kick start their careers. Pupils in remote areas can be reached, giving them access to a wider range of sectors and roles. Young people get the chance to meet people from across the UK, reflecting real-life workplace experiences.

In just one week, we made a huge impact on each of our students' lives by helping them to develop their 8 key employability skills while gaining an experience of the working world –  which we hope will also greatly impact  the lives of their families, their friends and school peers.

In total, 20 16-18 year olds took part and we’re proud to say that 100% completed the week. 60% of students were from BAME backgrounds and there was a 51/49 male/female split.  We particularly wanted to reach and support pupils from outside of London and were pleased that almost half of participants came from other towns and cities from around England. 

The programme opens doors and opportunities for young people and gives them their first experience of the working, corporate world. Plans are already underway to repeat the programme next year. We’re looking forward to it.

Read more about inequality in education on the Teach First website.

“I have really enjoyed this virtual work experience week and I have learnt many things about employability/work life skills. The most important one to me was the CV writing as I was having troubles on how to create mine but now, I know how to create a presentable CV thanks to the Capita volunteers.” Work experience student

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