An Opportunity: Increased Access to Outreach and Work Experience

An increase in online outreach activities and virtual work experiences have widened access to knowledge and experience for the most disadvantaged young people. It is well established that young people from low socio-economic backgrounds have struggled with access to university and professional careers. According to the Office for Students, ‘outreach’ is delivered by Higher Education (HE) organisations to provide advice and information. The purpose is to raise awareness and expectations, remove barriers, and create pathways. Prior to COVID-19, outreach was typically delivered face-to-face in schools, the community and on campus. Restrictions made much of this vital work impossible, and outreach programmes across the country innovated quickly. For example, the Sutton Trust Online aims to support 6000 disadvantaged year-12 students with their university and college applications. The new platform will incorporate features of the Sutton Trust’s summer school programme. Increased online delivery of these activities means those who previously did not have access due to financial restraints, distance and cultural barriers, i.e. parents not wanting their daughters staying away from home during the nights (summer schools), now have access in an unprecedented way. An increasing number of UK employers now provide virtual work experience opportunities through platforms like Forage. Giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds access to a diverse range of experiences without the usual barriers that restrict them from gaining work experience vital for career development, such as distance and transport costs. The rise in virtual work experience allows young people to get an in-depth insight into careers and organisations in a way not available before COVID-19. A possible negative consequence of this increasingly digital approach to knowledge and experience is that lack of access to tech for the poorest young people will mean they miss out on even more than they did before COVID-19.




%d bloggers like this: