The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures have brought several changes for everyone over the past six months. For young people, school closures soon led to increasing uncertainty around exams, university options and future career prospects.
At the beginning of April, during the virtual REACH Young Person’s Advisory Group meetings, we heard from young people who were concerned about how they would add to their CVs or applications for university after their work experience placements were cancelled. This inspired us to think of ways that we could create a work experience programme that could be completed entirely online. Our ambition was to create something that would be beneficial for every young person, irrespective of whether they’d like to go to university, enter an apprenticeship or find a job after secondary school.
“I hoped to understand more about REACH, psychology and how REACH works with collecting data and such. It has definitely exceeded my expectations and given me more information about not just REACH, psychology and mental health but also university, the future and the workplace.”
- Virtual work experience student
As part of our longstanding and extensive engagement programme, the REACH team have always welcomed work experience students to the office and valued the fantastic contributions young people have made to our website, newsletters, social media and much more.
Pictured above: Work experience student Millie at the REACH office, Summer 2019
We started to think about how this could be adapted for online delivery using virtual platforms and developed a programme that covered core aspects of mental health research including psychology, mental health and research methods. Despite the focus on mental health research, the programme was designed to develop skills for all young people, regardless of their age, previous knowledge, interests or chosen career path.
“[The top things I learned were] the history of psychology and the mental health section, it completely fascinated me, it really changed my views and made me feel so much more open to a future where I am involved with psychology.” - Virtual work experience student
To achieve this, participating students were assigned tasks to promote skills which are valuable in a variety of work environments including creating and delivering presentations, researching topics using reliable resources online, writing and creating social media and website content. The tasks were also designed to be flexible to allow students to explore their own interests and develop the skills which they felt would be most valuable to them.
The REACH virtual work experience placements have been a great success so far with over 100 young people engaging with the programme across two weeks in the summer holidays! When asked, over 95% of the students indicated that a key reason for taking part was to add to their CV or university applications, highlighting the need for virtual opportunities to be made available to young people during this unusual time.
“The REACH staff people were so lovely and created a lovely environment which can be quite hard to do on an online class/work environment and I had such an amazing week of learning and bonding which I really needed after about 5 months without proper socialisation.”
-Virtual work experience student
Pictured above: REACH virtual work experience students, August 2020
The students have produced some fantastic work including blogs, posters and plenty of advice and suggested content for our social media! After the fantastic feedback from the virtual work experience placements so far, the REACH team plan to run the programme throughout the year. If you’d like to get involved, you can find more information about becoming a REACH virtual work experience student by sending us an email at email@example.com.
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