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Leading Coventry businesswoman urges other businesses to ‘think outside the box’ and provide remote work experience for school pupils during lockdown

Fleur Sexton

“Giving the next generation of our workforce an insider view of how our world works is absolute gold”

 With the pandemic sabotaging so many key experiences that should be shaping young people’s lives and aspirations, work experience is one area where businesses can step up their game and provide invaluable support and inspiration to the next generation of our workforce. Coventry-based PET-Xi Training – one of the most hard-hitting and dynamic training providers in the UK with a reputation for success with the hardest to reach – is offering school pupils a whole range of remote work experience placements, from marketing to finance and graphic design, and Managing Director Fleur Sexton is urging other businesses to ‘think outside the box’ and follow suit.

“Life isn’t perfect, but understanding how to deal with imperfect situations and still succeeding is one of the most important lessons young people can learn,” said Fleur Sexton, who is also Deputy Lieutenant, West Midlands and Businesswoman of the Year. “Lockdown has put up so many barriers, and businesses may be shying away from offering work experience in such challenging circumstances. But it’s vital that we give the next generation of our workforce an insider’s view of how the career world works – let them see how businesses are keeping going in the hardest of times, how they are adapting and creating positives from difficult situations. It’s more important now than ever to show young people a ‘warts and all’ view of life.”

Businesses should look at what insight into the working world they can offer work experience students during lockdown instead of what they can’t. While traditional ‘in-person’ placements are currently not feasible, ‘remote’ placements are – and they can even offer new advantages.

For example, young people living in seaside towns with limited job prospects suddenly have a raft of opportunities opened up once work experience moves online – location is taken out of the equation. Similarly, those with physical disabilities, anxiety or who are disadvantaged in other ways may have difficulty accessing work experience via the traditional route – the playing field is levelled in many ways once it becomes virtual.

A range of remote or virtual work experience options are on offer at PET-Xi, with packages of support designed around the interests and potential career path of each pupil taking part – whether they are considering a future job in sales, training, teaching, marketing, graphic design or HR & admin. Reflecting PET-Xi’s commitment to ‘re-wiring’ communities and creating social equity, these options include:

  • ‘Smashing glass ceilings’ – workshop-style sessions where students learn about the issue of certain industries not being accessible to certain kids and how these inequalities can actually be fixed with remote packages For example, a career in law is still less likely to be pursued by young people from the BAME community
  • Inspiring and providing role models – pupils have the chance to ‘shadow’ workers in different jobs by joining zoom meetings and being involved ‘remotely’ in their day-to-day job. This is hugely important as missing out on seeing how other people do things is one of the biggest threats of lockdown. Having someone ‘on hand’ to answer questions and show them the kinds of challenges they may face – such as meeting tight deadlines or resolving conflict – gives young people crucial insight into what working life entails. In finance for example, pupils may ‘meet’ apprentices as well as directors who have worked their way up and have the chance to find out about their job.
  • Providing networks and contacts  – during these tough times it is harder to establish these vital industry links, especially for young people at the bottom of the career ladder. These sessions will give pupils practical advice on how to ‘grow’ networks and make the right contacts to help kickstart their chosen career
  • Initial assessment/career wise assessment with feedback – practical steps to help students decide what careers best suit their skills and aptitudes, and what they need to do to reach their career goal
  • Joining podcasts/interviews of successful business people who have smashed ceilings or who are outstanding role models for pupils to inspire and help them to aim high
  • Developing interview skills – live sessions geared towards specific job roles with clear practical advice on the do’s and don’ts of interviews
  • Employability support based on PET-Xi’s traineeship delivery model
  • Experiential learning – project-based activity such as an evaluation of on-line delivery, what went well/even better if?

Commenting on the importance of providing work experience during the pandemic, Fleur Sexton said, “Businesses should focus on what they do best and then think outside the box to create an experience of working life that will open pupils’ minds to the opportunities available to them, demonstrate the real value of resilience and show them the skills and mindset they need to develop to work in different roles and sectors. Giving the next generation of our workforce an insider view of how our world works is absolute gold – and I am calling on all businesses to play their part in helping to shape young people’s futures.”

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