Being young today is not easy. With youth unemployment high, school leavers and university graduates find themselves competing ever more strenuously for jobs and training places.
Added to this a modern Catch 22. Many employers now relevant work experience very positively as part of an application for a job, yet gaining a relevant work experience has become almost as hard as landing the job for which it is meant to prepare.
But what if every interested young person in the UK were able to gain first-hand insight into the sector at the click of a button, acquiring accurate and relevant information about it in a lively and interactive way? And then, if they found that interesting, have the opportunity to ask further questions and receive answers from someone actually working within the sector? What if they could actually have virtual work experience?
The Financial Skills Partnership has been awarded funding and has received major employer backing to make this vision a reality. Using the latest in digital technology the aim is to reach every young person, teacher and school in the country.
In consultation with employers and educational institutions, the FSP is currently developing an online e-learning platform called GetInGetOnwhich will give young people the opportunity to start building both their knowledge about the industry and – previously inaccessible to most – their own network.
They will complete a virtual work experience placement, have their questions answered by an industry practitioner, and those who want to take things further will also have the opportunity to meet sector employers at a careers event.
At the same time they will be connected with a volunteer from a firm in the sector for short, intensive e-mentoring sessions, offering the ability to ask questions of their e-mentor through the e-learning platform, in a safe way, with no e-mail addresses being exchanged.
Making work experience virtual is the best and the most obvious way of guaranteeing maximum outreach.
But this is not just about numbers. It is about access. It means that for the first time a young person who has no one in their family or circle of friends working in the industry can have the opportunity to find their way in.
The e-learning units can also be used by teachers covering business or economics topics, and will provide valuable learning in themselves, as well as connecting the learner with an employee in the sector. Those having demonstrated their interest and commitment by completing the units will be signed up to FSP’s online careers portalDirectionsand will be kept informed of future opportunities. They will also be offered contact with employers through careers events.
So much has recently been written about young people’s lack of employable skills and the gap between education and employment. GetInGetOnis a practical, fun and effective way of bridging that gap, developing employability skills, giving an understanding of the industry and the sector, and starting to build relationships between young people and employers which may lead to future opportunities.
Employers also stand to benefit by having access to thousands of bright and talented young people at an early stage and can start building relationships which may eventually see them recruiting new staff.
Employers who provide volunteer e-mentors will also receive e-mentoring training, developing their capacity to be e-mentors and coaches in the workplace. This will give them a new and closer understanding of the generation they are mentoring and what makes them tick.
Not only is this generation our future workforce; they are also our future customers. Since many employers currently have no contact with this generation in the workplace, the knowledge gained and the connections made are bound to be beneficial.
GetInGetOnalready has backing from eight major industry employers, Catlin, HSBC, KPMG, Nationwide, RBS, RSA, Santander and Sesame Bankhall, and it is expected that many more will want to join the virtual revolution.
Liz Field is chief executive of the Financial Skills Partnership