The programme aims to improve social mobility by making it easier for young people from UK state schools to access high quality work experience, regardless of background or location.
Thanks to the flexibility of virtual delivery, employers from different industries have been able to offer thousands more placements than would have been possible previously with Speakers for Schools moving from working with 50 employers to partnering with over 600 employers, delivering 50,000 free virtual placements to 14-19 year olds, drawn from 3,100 state secondary schools and colleges across the UK. These opportunities have been offered to young people in communities where there is often a disconnect between young peoples’ aspiration and the presence of outstanding employers.
In January 2021, as part of the NHS Experience Nursing programme, 1,300 young people completed virtual placements. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive: 83.7% of the group said they felt better informed about the range of nursing careers available following their placement. Whilst more than half of the group said that they had already considered a career in nursing before their placement, a further 30.2% said they would consider a career in nursing after their placement.
Employers have also increased their reach to include the most geographically remote areas of the UK and been able to prioritise applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Early adopters say virtual delivery had also helped them to better engage with young women and girls and ethnic minority communities .
Helen Clements of Morgan Sindall Construction said the programme “had far exceeded our expectation on the impact it had on the young people. Students have said it was “the best week of their teenage lives”.
As restrictions ease, Speakers for Schools will offer all employers the option to run hybrid work experience programmes – as well as in-person placements – so that they can continue to reach those with the highest need.