Taking our work experience virtual!

Since the beginning of COVID-19 it has not been possible to carry out STEM and careers outreach work in the traditional way. This has had an impact on both young people’s education and their career aspirations - with many not having had the chance to learn and experience what career opportunities are out there.

What did we do?

We partnered with Speakers for Schools, a charity whose aim is to connect industry-leading companies with state school students, to deliver meaningful and inspiring experiences, to broaden students' horizons and to spark their ambitions.  Speakers for Schools provided us with a safe, secure and safeguarded virtual platform (Google Classrooms) to use and gave us access to their growing network of 1,600 schools and 1.6 million students across the UK.  The partnership enabled Amey to deliver meaningful and structured work experience to young people virtually wherever they reside, enabling students from all backgrounds to apply.

Our virtual work experience took place across 3 days with, targeted towards students aged between 14 and 18. In total we had 24 students split into five teams. They were tasked with reviewing our Sheffield Streets Ahead winter service and reporting back on how we could improve four areas: finance, health and safety, environment and communications. On the final afternoon each team were given the opportunity to present their ideas to an Amey panel who provided feedback to each student.

To support and guide the students, experts from across the our Kent, Sheffield Streets Ahead and Staffordshire highways contracts gave interactive sessions on each topic and dropped into the breakout groups to offer additional support and advice. The students also attended a session on presentation skills, which taught how to plan, put together and present their ideas. Only 7 of the students had ever given a presentation before, but every single student presented to the Amey panel.

As well as giving an insight into working at Amey, our team of 20 employees also delivered a variety of different sessions including CV writing, interview practice, career chats with Amey apprentices and graduates to give a flavour of different career paths available, and an essential skills framework workshop where each student identified the skills they already have and the ones they want to work towards.

What was the impact?

Some of the key findings of which are listed below:

  • 100% of the respondents rated the programme at 4+/5 overall
  • 90% of the respondents answered 8+/10 when asked if they would recommend the programme to a friend
  • 80% of the respondents answered 8+/10 when asked if they felt they had a better understanding of the highways industry after taking part in the programme
  • 90% of the respondents reporting feeling either confident or very confident in achieving outcomes through teamwork after taking part in the programme
  • 90% of the respondents reporting feeling either confident or very confident in speaking and communicating with others after taking part in the programm

All of the respondent said they had learned valuable skills in interview techniques, CV writing and understanding their own strengths and weaknesses

Some comments from participants are shown below:

  • “You have been excellent, and my honest opinion was I thought this experience was going to be so boring as it was online. But you did the impossible and that was you made this experience so interactive and your colleagues taught us so much that will hopefully help us in the future. So once again thank you. “
  • “I want to first thank you for offering me this great opportunity and I learnt so much from you guys these three days and I really enjoyed it.”
  • “Thanks for the work experience, I have learnt a lot and feel like this is going to be beneficial for me as a head start on my civil engineering course in university which I will hopefully be doing in September.”
  • “It was very beneficial as I learnt new skills and also improved on skills such as communication and teamwork”
  • “It was great, I really enjoyed it and built up my confidence and speaking skills”
  • It has made a huge difference to me. As myself a young student and about to finish my 2 final years in secondary school, I have now discovered what opportunities are out there for me and I learnt about how to go for interviews and how to write my CV. I will definitely recommend this experience to my friends and peers at school.
  • “I didn’t know anything about this career when I joined but it has opened my mind up to this career. In that first day alone, I retained so much information and I’m so glad I got accepted onto the programme”

For Amey, the biggest thing we learnt was how much we can increase the impact we have by combining traditional outreach work with embracing new technology and ways of working. Many of the team involved in the project had years of STEM experience but were taken completely out of our comfort zone by being tasked with mastering a new way of delivery and interaction.  What was particularly noticeable was how comfortable the students were with the format and medium which has made us start to think about how we interact with young people in the future in a way that allows them to leverage their technological abilities more.

Amey Social Value Advisor, Sarah Hale, who organised the work experience week, commented, “It was an absolute delight to host the virtual work experience week, all of the students engaged with the sessions and provided some amazing responses to the task we gave them. We really wanted the students to come away feeling like they’d had a real insight into what it’s like to work at Amey and give them a clear path of how they could achieve that type of job. We gave each student a logbook so that they were able to jot down any learnings they had, and any areas they wanted to improve on. Hopefully they will take the skills and experience with them on their journey. We’ve already had some amazing feedback and I’m excited to start planning the next work experience week.”