16 Jan, 2013

Virtual work experience

16 Jan, 2013

Youth unemployment will again exceed a million in 2013 according to predictions by the Institute for Public Policy Research. The independent think tank’s analysis published in December predicts that up to 86,000 additional young people under 25 are likely to swell the ranks of those already unemployed during the course of 2013.

Experts agree that one main reason for this is the reluctance of small and medium-sized businesses to hire school leavers because they simply do not believe they are ready for work. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has just released a report confirming this. It shows 77% of small business owners surveyed believe school leavers’ business awareness is poor, and 81% are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all confident’ that students leaving school at 16 have the right level of employability skills.

A new initiative about to be launched by the Financial Skills Partnership (FSP) promises help here on the widest possible scale by deploying new technology to reach out to school and college students across the UK. GetInGetOn is an innovative industry-led e-learning project through which the financial and professional services sectors will build employability skills and ensure the industry’s future talent pipeline.

The GetInGetOn programme aims to arm 16-19 year olds with the necessary skills and knowledge to break into the financial and professional services sectors. Young people taking part in the programme, which starts on 1st April 2013, will undertake online immersive learning modules, delivered through an interactive platform, at the same time as having access to industry professionals with whom they can have e-conversations about careers and working in the sector.

Prior to the start of the programme, the FSP needs 300 people working in the financial and professional services industries to sign up to act as e-career mentors to participate for just seven hours volunteering over one calendar month.

Financial Skills Partnership’s CEO, Liz Field, said: “We are rolling out this important new scheme with this first of two six-month pilot projects offering virtual placements which will each last for one calendar month. First, participants from sector companies will be able to develop their coaching and mentoring skills and receive online training on how to be good e-mentors.

“Bright and ambitious students will then be able to gain real learning about the sector, presented in eight thirty-minute-long modules developed in consultation with employers and teachers which will convey an understanding of topics such as how do financial services work, risk and rewards, and good customer service. Their e-mentor will be on hand on the e-learning platform to guide them through the learning process and answer their additional questions.”

E-mentors will only need to commit seven hours of time for each placement, one hour to complete a Criminal Records Bureau form, one hour undergoing online training on how to be a good mentor, an optional one-hour webinar, and four hours of e-mentoring activity. This virtual work experience programme is highly cost- and time-effective. There are no overheads involved, and there is no need to meet or to respond to queries in ‘real time’. Students can leave, and e-mentors answer, messages on the online platform at the times most convenient to them and from any geographical location.

Liz Field concluded: “Participating in a virtual placement as an e-mentor is bound to give volunteers job satisfaction, as they will play an immensely important role in a young person’s life, establishing the young person’s first connection to the industry and helping us find our future 21st Century leaders.

Liz continues: “GetInGetOn will help raise young people’s aspirations and improve both their knowledge and confidence. Work experience is only ever of true benefit, particularly in today’s tough economic climate, if it imparts real knowledge and skills and gives ambitious young people a chance to take the first crucial step towards securing a ‘real’ job later. Our e-mentors will be playing an immensely valuable role, helping establish a pipeline for future recruitment into their firms, and into the industry generally.”