Covid and moving into a new virtual world…

Wednesday 30th Sep 2020

Covid and moving into a new virtual world…

Students want engaging, inspiring and relatable experiences. Teachers want meaningful encounters and online interaction for their students. Employers want to do good and are starting to use volunteers within their businesses more effectively to provide these opportunities for our young people. These are some of my learnings over the Covid period. Which at the time of writing this, was 6 months ago only last week, the Monday after schools went into lock down, some 100+ hours of online delivery from our team at Pathway CTM since then, and here is what I’ve taken from it, so far.

Key school and college learnings;

We have seen the profile of teachers rise over Covid-19, along with healthcare workers, while people turned to trying to educate their children (many very much struggling). Teachers have done an amazing job with what is already such a challenging vocation, where there is little time for anything but teaching and learning. Most schools and colleges are acting brilliantly and signing students up to the Pathway Programme, recognising that having online events and support from our coaching team is a good solution to students being sent home due to inevitable outbreaks. In fact one of my webinars last week was full of student from schools in Birmingham who had to send their year groups home due to Covid cases. When a system like this works, it feels good. Just like when we were there every day, 2-3pm with online webinars, from day 1 of isolation in March, right through until the Summer holidays.

The key message however, is to not let students (particularly the guarded transition years) miss out on careers exploration and learning due to having to be stricter on the curriculum and exams. Yes, they have missed out on core subject time. Yes, exams shouldn’t be so in 2021 (in my view). But we can’t have the approach of ‘no’ to careers, exploration and online events with employers as a result of Covid. Far from it – I want to see us continue the momentum of students having more time to explore companies and attend events and explore options they perhaps would not have done if they finished last term in the usual way…  Pathway CTM hold employer events in a students’ own time in respect of their curriculum demands. This is addressing some feedback we are hearing from teachers in general about good employer engagement and inspiring careers opportunities being rejected – there needs to be a balanced approach despite the imposed stresses our education system is under.

The opportunity of online;

We are working with Employers, Schools, Colleges and the Careers & Enterprise Company in providing a plethora of online learning experiences. The key points to bring out here are that all have the opportunity for students, and indeed influencers, to participate – live! This means interaction, questions, polls and good, meaningful engagement, online. In addition, these are all being recorded and posted on our YouTube channel, as well as shared with the partners involved in the broadcasts. This is giving teachers and students content to use at their preference; all still leading back into the support given by Pathway CTM in follow up and guidance.

What I am seeing from our data and stories is students from all around the UK engaging with employer brands they might not have done in the previous world of physical events. For example, visiting an employer’s office. Students from Birmingham and Northern Ireland are attending London Centric companies to explore the skills and information they are sharing. Next week we see Dyson showcasing their engineering opportunities for young people, and it’s not just students from the South West showing interest, far from it! Good for brands, but moreover, good for social mobility and diversity and overall opportunity for all.

Tech poverty I hear you say? With a predicted 90% of UK households having broadband, at Pathway CTM we haven’t seen or heard issues of access so far. But this is not to say they are not there, and we will be working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and employers to try and uncover those who are suffering and missing out from this new online world as a result of not having the connectivity.

At Pathway CTM we support students in limiting the worry about being on camera and allowing them to be involved in online sessions without the need to show themselves virtually. A recent small finding from a social mobility charity was that over 30% of students felt prohibited by having shared space at home and limiting their confidence with being on show virtually. But by setting up online events without that expectation, ensures access and opportunity is increased – this is something we must all be aware of too.

Opportunities with employers;

Pathway CTM is working on many online events this year, including meeting apprentices/graduates/interns, asking senior leaders about how they got there, insight from HR managers and what they look for and even parent and teacher specific events too – every month! Students can meet employers, speak with them, work with them on tasks. Students can be selected for online work experiences and ask questions; even see an office or site in a live tour using everyday technology. Schemes, Programmes and one off events are being set up every week, and students need to keep an eye out on our new student portal and make the most of these opportunities. Accessing a career never felt so accessible. This should be the statement we are all working towards.