It’s been a wild year, and while things slowly begin to return to some form of ‘normal,’ the ways we work and engage with the workplace have been changed forever.
Many employees have been tasked with working remotely, with trust placed on them to keep delivering within their role. For the most part, organisations have thrived from the experience and learnt a lot about developing proactive, remote teams.
But where does that leave a cohort of young people hungry to get their first work experience?
We talk about the benefits of work experience and how it supports young people to develop the professional skills needed to grow at work - a lot of these skills involve physically being in a work environment and learning from others. With more businesses and education providers bridging the gap created by the current pandemic through virtual offerings, how valuable are these programs, and what benefits do they have to offer?
First Things First: What is Virtual Work Experience?
Also referred to as online, remote, or digital work experience, virtual work experience helps young people further their knowledge within a specific career industry and boost their employability for different job roles. It’s essentially a course of information and interactive activities geared around employability, all delivered online.
Programs can be pretty varied, depending on your age and what the program aims to deliver. Some might last for one day, and others can last as long as two weeks. They’re usually a blend of live webinars and Q&As, virtual workplace tours, small projects and activity work, alongside reading and knowledge assessments. They can be self-paced or worked through alongside a career mentor or professional from your chosen sector.
3 Benefits of Virtual Work Experience Programs
Virtual programs are always going to be pretty different from face-to-face programs. However, they still have heaps to offer in terms of value and helping you grow your understanding of a potential career path.
Other benefits include:
- Developing Future Proof Skills
It’s highly likely remote working will continue to be and perhaps grow as a work mode for many people across the world. A virtual work experience program can help you get prepared for what this will be like. You’ll still have deadlines to meet and tasks to complete - but you’ll have total autonomy to manage your time and make sure you get things done. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and develop the skills you can keep growing to meet our changing world of work.
- Learning What’s Right for You
Virtual work experience programs allow you to get a taster of different industry sectors. Because some programs require a shorter time commitment (anything from half a day to a couple of days), you can dip your toe in and see whether it’s right for you before committing further. For those who are unsure what they want their next steps to be, this can be a fantastic resource for narrowing down your ideas.
Top Tip: Check out the case studies on the NGTU site for heaps of inspiration, ideas, and tips on different career areas you might like to explore through virtual work experience!
- Access to Global Opportunities
Because everything is delivered entirely online, the world is your oyster! You can access programs worldwide. For those who live in rural or regional areas, it also means a greater range of access to employers, educational organisations, and businesses they might not otherwise get a chance to interact with. Virtual programs are a great way to gain insights into industries and employers you might otherwise miss out on.
3 Things to Look Out For When Selecting a Virtual Work Experience Program
Not all virtual work experience will be created equal, and some components will make it a better (or worse) experience than others. Here are three things to look out for when reviewing and deciding on whether to sign up for virtual work experience:
- Interactive Engagement
Nobody likes just reading pages of text or scrolling through images online - it’s boring! For a great experience, make sure you look for a program that offers a good mix of interactive engagement. You want to feel like you’re learning from others, so this should include: live webinars and Q&A sessions with professionals, opportunities to speak with a mentor, video recordings, activities, quizzes, and games.
- Alignment with Businesses
A strong virtual work experience program will offer you the chance to learn more about ‘real-world’ work scenarios, so look for one that’s aligned with real-life businesses and organisations. This way, you’ll hear from professionals, learn about different roles and entry pathways for specific industry employers, and get further insights into how specific industries are operating today.
- Feedback and a Personal Touch
Even though it’s online, it’s still nice to have the opportunity to get some feedback and feel like you’re a part of something. Look for a program that also gives you access to a mentor or has a course advisor on hand to answer any questions you might have along the way. Some acknowledgement for completing the program is also great - whether that’s a certificate of achievement or perhaps a virtual badge you can share online and your resume.
Overall, virtual work experience is a chance to stay up-to-date and proactive during this time when face-to-face programs are on hold. When you apply for future jobs, demonstrating that you stayed positive and adapted to the opportunities available to you will look great on your resume.
Beyond boosting your knowledge and transferable skills, virtual work experience also opens the door wide in terms of accessibility for a much greater range of young people. No matter what you’re ability, availability, or current skillset, there’s bound to be an online program that can help get you started on the first steps to the career of your dreams.
There’s definitely a place for them in our current world of work, and I think they’re well worth getting involved with.