Virtual work experience - why it might help your child stand out
What is virtual work experience?
Virtual work experience, also referred to as online, remote or digital, provides young people with the opportunity to gain experience in the workplace, develop their skills, boost their employability and explore new industries and job roles.
It’s a broad term and can include any opportunity which provides young people with an insight into what it’s like to work in an industry or job role while at home. Most virtual work experiences range from half a day to one week, but some may last longer depending on the nature of the work experience and the age of your child.
Not all virtual work experience is the same. Some are open to everyone and provide a platform for students to discover more about the job, view pre-recorded videos on what it’s like to work with the organisation, go on virtual tours and possibly take part in some live Q&A sessions. Others may require your child to go through an application process and offer regular online meetings with a supervisor, individual project work, networking sessions, training opportunities and video tutorials.
What are the benefits of a virtual work placement?
Virtual work placements are open to everyone and location does not need to be a limiting factor. This opens many possibilities for your child to explore new jobs and industries in areas that may not have been possible under face to face arrangements.
The majority of virtual work experience placements are free, although some employers charge for the opportunity; working from home will also mean your child will not incur any travel related costs.
Remote working is likely to be important to many businesses in the future and learning how to conduct business and work online will develop extremely valuable skills for the modern workplace.
It’s not always easy working from home and taking part in virtual work experience placements will help your child develop those soft skills that all employers are seeking, such as organisation, time-management and self-motivation.
Knowing what’s right (or what isn’t)
Understanding what a job or a career entails might help your child make decisions about whether or not that role is right for them in the future.
Which organisations offer virtual work experience?
As social distancing seems set to remain for the foreseeable future, more and more firms are beginning to provide virtual work experience opportunities to students and young people. Placements are available across several sectors including accountancy, law, marketing and the veterinary sciences. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some companies and businesses currently offering virtual work experience:
An excellent website to help young people develop the skills they need for a better future.
An excellent opportunity for those interested in design to actively work with different departments on one exciting project, helping them solve problems and complete real-life tasks.
Suitable for those looking to apply to medical school, this virtual work placement introduces students to the NHS before exploring the roles and skill sets of six different medical specialists.
A chance to learn from industry experts and take part in over 200 free cyber security challenges
An online work experience programme for those interested in architecture and design.
A remote virtual work experience with a twist. Suitable for anyone interested in developing their design or marketing skills. Feedback will be given plus a chance to feature on Hunter Bevan's website.
An excellent website which offers virtual work experience placements from a range of companies, from banking to careers in tech. Most options last up to six hours and involve tutorials, videos and activities.
Aimed at students between 14 and 18 years old, InvestIn offers an impressive array of virtual work placements involving real life work and contact with professionals. This is a paid service, and placements range from one day to one week. Prices start from £90.
An online summer school, designed to provide an introduction to journalism for beginners. A range of topics is covered, including newsgathering, interviewing skills, media law, sports journalism and broadcasting.
A website dedicated to helping the UK's next generation of cyber professionals through a variety of free courses for 11-17 year olds and exciting competitions.
Oak National Academy (aimed at students in Year 10 )
A virtual 'work experience week' with access to videos, lessons and insights into a range of different industries and careers.
Operation Wallacea (paid)
A range of week-long internships with live online mentoring, a daily schedule, regular deadlines and constant contact with managing staff. Prices start from £100 for 5 days and run throughout August and September.
Premed Projects Live TV (paid)
Suitable for students aged 14-19 and interested in Biology, Science, healthcare and / or for those considering careers in medicine. Watch live videos within the operating theatre, download exam linked worksheets, watch interviews with healthcare professionals and receive tips and advice on applications to medicine. This is a paid service (monthly subscriptions start from £12.99).
Suitable for students aged 14-18 and interested in learning more about careers in finance. The placement lasts 5 days and includes a mix of live and pre-recorded videos, project work and live Q&A sessions.
Organised, by the RCGP, Observe GP is an alternative to work experience for aspiring medics aged 16 and over, who are living in the UK. It is a free interactive video platform providing insights into the role of a GP and the wider primary care team.
Recently launched, Speakers4schools aims to provide a level playing field by connecting young people to high quality virtual work placements. Register to stay up to date with their latest developments.
A list of law firms offering virtual work experience.
An online platform providing a range of virtual work experiences including workshops, fellowships and internships. External companies are free to post opportunities, so we strongly recommend you encourage your child to research all options thoroughly before applying.
Things to consider
Online placements are not for everyone
Not everyone is suited to working behind a screen or remotely; some may have their heart set on a more creative or hands on career option. If virtual work experience is not right for your child, there’s lots of other things they can do while at home – check out our blog on helping your child stand out for more ideas.
Virtual work experience is fairly new and opportunities are limited
Virtual work placements and internships are a new offering and places are likely to be limited and only available in certain industries, however, the list of companies offering them is growing.
May not give a full reflection of the particular job
There are limitations to what can be experienced through virtual placements, so make sure your child is aware that this may only provide a partial glimpse of what’s involved in the job.
Be sure to check the company’s credentials and what information your child is giving to them. Most companies will have age guidelines for suitability, but if not, do make sure it’s age appropriate.
The question ‘what did you do during lockdown / the Coronavirus crisis’ is likely to become an interview staple. Whatever your child chooses to do after school, employers and universities will be looking for people who were proactive, resilient and committed to making the most out of the challenges presented to them during this time. While virtual work experience can demonstrate many of these skills, there are also plenty of other ways to help your child show an employer or university that they are adaptable, resilient and willing to seek out the positives in any given circumstances. For more ideas, click here.
Support and resources for parents of teens
If your child is aged between 16-19 and beginning to think about their future and what they might like to do after sixth form, check out our summary of all their options: The Parents' Guide to Post 18 options or if they're 14-16 here's a summary of their choices after GCSEs: The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options
... or head over to our parent support page for more advice, tips and fantastic free resources on how you can help your teenage child prepare for their future - including our free book: The Parents' Guide to helping your child know what's next.