In this blog, first published on the Careers & Enterprise Company website, D2N2 Careers Hub lead Dan Heffernan talks about overcoming the challenges Covid-19 presents to Careers Education.
As professionals working in the careers world, we tell our young people to prepare for the unexpected, to think outside of the box, and to learn the importance of soft skills such as adaptability, teamwork, and determination.
When Covid-19 struck, it was our turn to, not just model these skills, but to put our trust in them to see us through. Our world as we all know it was turned upside down.
Something completely impossible suddenly became our reality.
Many things we had taken for granted were suddenly and abruptly taken from us such as a walk, seeing friends, and even a handshake.
However, even in the most challenging of circumstances, we have a choice of how to respond.
At D2N2, I feel incredibly fortunate to work alongside some of the most committed, innovative, and passionate people I have ever met.
I remember the first virtual meeting we held back in March. After I had eventually turned myself the right way round on camera, and my colleague Emily Carter had found the unmute button, we got down to the serious stuff.
To thrive in this new world, we had to come up with new ideas.
With face-to-face contact impossible for the foreseeable future, we shifted our approach to digital-first to ensure that young people were still able to engage with employers, training providers, colleges, and universities.
Those engagements had to remain to sustain and increase their aspirations, give them the knowledge and the tools to make informed decisions, and ensure that they are ready and able to make a positive contribution to society.
To meet this challenge, D2N2 began working in direct partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council, hundreds of different businesses, colleges, universities, and training providers to create what’s become known as the My Future virtual platform.
The platform (desktop and mobile app) is a one-stop-shop for everything to do with skills and employment for school leavers and features an immersive virtual careers expo that’s completely free to access.
Inside the expo, organisations can showcase their business and engage with students, training providers can live stream workshops, and colleges and universities can highlight their courses.
The expo along though would not be enough to counter the absence of face-to-face support for students from trained guidance practitioners.
In another collaboration (a common theme) with our local Education Business Partnership and with funding secured from The Careers & Enterprise Company, we set up a self-referral system through My Future.
Students can now fill in a quick form at any point and this will alert a trained guidance practitioner, who will contact them within two hours.
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My Future will support schools, colleges, parents, and of course, our students well after this pandemic has ended.
Through embracing a digital solution we have been able to bring a little slice of industry into student’s living rooms and breakdown any geographical boundaries or other barriers that would otherwise restrict engagement.
It is our hope that when the world does return to normal, and face to face encounters like careers fairs and assemblies resume, these virtual encounters will instil a sense of familiarity and ensure that those conversations are perhaps a little more meaningful.
None of this would have been possible without the partnerships created, and all of us at D2N2 are grateful to those who have supported this work and who continue to support our schools and colleges.
We truly are better off, when we work together…