How to Deliver Outstanding Virtual Work Experience and Social Mobility Programmes

How can you ensure your virtual work experience programme is impactful, positive for your audience and delivers against your desired objectives? Sam Moyland, CSR Manager at Cisco, and Camilla Carsland, CSR Programme Manager at TCS, joined us to share their insights on how to deliver a valuable virtual programme.

Why did Cisco and Tata Consultancy decide to run virtual work experience?

Sam: ‘Simply put, in response to Covid-19. Cisco originally had no plans to run virtual work experience, so this was very much the catalyst for us. In terms of Cisco’s offices, no guests will be allowed back in until March 2021 at the earliest, which makes it impossible to run any face to face activity on site. We did not want to drop everything, so we started working with MKF to deliver virtually.’

Camilla: ‘In many ways, this was very similar for us, Covid-19 changed a lot. TCS wanted to support a wider network of young people and provide as many students as possible with access to virtual experiences. It sped up a lot of plans and we are pleased, as it has worked out quite well’.

What were the benefits of digital delivery, and are there any considerations to be aware of? 

Sam: ‘For students, the benefits are that you can be based anywhere. We’ve had students apply from across the UK. The benefit for teachers is through bringing the company to the students, and ensuring teachers and schools still have something to look forward to participating in. For the company, we were able to engage volunteers much more easily, via digital mentoring and live sessions, so this was a huge overall plus for Cisco’.

Camilla: ‘Accessibility and flexibility. Students could complete the content via self-learning and offline modules, the live sessions were panellist or recorded sessions. For teachers, they could utilise the live events without having to create new content or lessons for students. Again, it was easy to engage volunteers. There are considerations, e.g. access to technology. One way we are handling this is by creating a resource pack which we send out to students so they can complete it offline.’

Top tips and key considerations

Sam: ‘Preparation is key, plus keep the sessions short and interactive. Think about how you can get young people to really engage with you – don’t lecture!’

Camilla: ‘Check and test your tech! Cover all your bases. Involve employees as much as possible to support with the activity, so that students can engage with people from industry and not just educators.’

How has digital delivery shaped your thinking for future activity?

Sam: ‘It went rather well! From here, we will add it to our options as another string to our bow, and so its here to stay, as it helps us reach a much wider audience geographically.’

Camilla: ‘It’s been a wonderful addition to our activity. In the past, we have relied on face to face, but this programme has proved we are able to deliver digitally and have a much wider reach, such as students in the Highlands. We will consider our learnings and make it even better in the future.’

What benefits have the business seen from using technology like ‘Connectr’ in delivering your programme digitally?

Sam: ‘The real benefit is the availability of everything on Connectr – digital modules, digital mentors, forums, FAQs and live events. The week before we start we can onboard young people, then we have all our content available during the week itself, and we decide what we want that content to be e.g. employability skills, teamwork, personal brand etc.  Plus, it’s still available to access by students in their own time, so from a social mobility standpoint, it’s helpful if students are sharing a laptop etc. 

The other thing that comes out of the platform is the reporting functionality. It’s great to know people attended but even more helpful is the feedback on engagement and satisfaction levels.’

Camilla: ‘In addition to reporting on the programme, all our students receive an industrial placement certificate, and to offer this we need to be able to evidence their work and see who has completed the course. A big plus was how easy it was to navigate the system, the live panel session, plus recorded sessions, which we can use for our resource packs.’ 

MyKindaFuture’s expert, Annie Gregson, is our Experience Delivery and Learning Content Manager. Annie has the following advice…

Key considerations when switching to digital

  • Think about the outputs you want to achieve and the platform you use. If it’s a much more in depth experience you want to deliver, then you need tech which can support these ambitions.
  • Be flexible, both in terms of learning styles, but also personal circumstance. Accessibility and variety is key, so that you are presenting that face to face activity in a digital setting.
  • Keep it manageable, bite-sized, and ask for feedback.
  • Understand the flow, and consider how you want young people to navigate, and feel during the experience.
  • Make the instructions clear, and give students feedback wherever possible.

Are there any common mistakes businesses make?

  • Anything that is too convoluted will incur drop off. Have one well thought-out task or activity, which the young person can do really well, as this will land best.
  • Underestimating the resources and time needed to create a really inspiring digital programme. Do not think ‘because it’s going online’ it will be quick and easy to deliver.
  • Finally, check and test with teachers, students and many more, so that you do not miss ‘key instructions’, and the process is clear and concise.

Check out our recording of the webinar for an answer to the questions below! 

  • How can you ensure safeguarding with online programmes?
  • Is it important to in some way ‘accredit’ them?
  • How can you involve and engage volunteer programmes?