Speakers for Schools brings work experience with top employers to Wiltshire

By Nick Batten on 4 April, 2024

Social mobility charity Speakers for Schools is rolling out high-quality virtual work experiences to build young peoples’ skills and confidence in Wiltshire.

This is part of a new £2 million scheme in partnership with The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) to re-invent work experience for young people. It will develop engaging, meaningful virtual work experiences for state-educated 13–14-year-olds and the new programme, funded by the CEC and the Department for Education (DfE), is rolling out with Speakers for Schools throughout Wiltshire.

In the South West, the number of skill-shortage vacancies has more than doubled since 2019, going from 20,751 to 43,133.

Virtual work experience bridges the gap for young people in rural or coastal communities who face unique challenges. With fewer local and large employers to access, they are often left behind due to such geographical limitations. This approach allows young people to access opportunities regardless of where they live or who their parents know, and it also reflects the realities of today’s hybrid workplace.

The programme will be available to 600 state schools in coastal and rural communities across England (including Wiltshire), providing access to wider national networks of employers outside their local community. This will include online opportunities with respected employers such as Network Rail, Modern Art Oxford, Reed Smith, Wates Construction and the Institute of Food and Science Technology. It will involve interactive skills workshops led by industry professionals targeting 7000 students and offering real-life three-day projects, including ongoing feedback and assessment.

Nick Brook, Chief Executive Officer, Speakers for Schools said, “Talent is spread evenly across the country, but opportunity is not. We at Speakers for Schools believe that high-quality work experience should be a right, not a privilege, for state-education children. Access to potential future employers should never be dependent upon who mum and dad know, or where you live.

“By delivering virtual work experience placements in rural and coastal communities, we remove the barrier of geography or expensive travel. This partnership will enable thousands more young people to gain valuable insights into the world of work and help open doors to employers that were previously closed.”

Zoe, a member of the charity’s Youth Council said, “Where I live has some great experiences, but it’s hard to find work experience close to you. Throughout school, I’ve found that it’s also practically impossible to trust public transport to get you there. This makes it really difficult for children with parents who work full time to take up any work experience opportunities. I hope virtual work experience makes it easier for everyone to access, no matter where they live.”

In March 2023, Speakers for Schools published a report carried out by the think tank the Social Market Foundation, which earmarked an annual cost of £75m for delivering two work experience placements per state-school student, only 0.1 per cent of the school budget in 2022.

All research can be found here

Find out more about virtual opportunities here.