An accredited virtual work experience programme created by experts from the education, digital and construction procurement sectors has given almost 2,000 students from 300 secondary schools across England, Scotland and Wales the unique opportunity to complete a week of work experience during the coronavirus lockdown.
Running from 18-22 May, the groundbreaking not-for-profit Learning in Lockdown programme delivered a high level of educational outcomes and community benefits, including generating £192,856 in social value.
Led by public sector procurement specialist Scape Group, Learning in Lockdown was created in partnership with Class of Your Own, Learn Live, EDT (The Engineering Development Trust)/Industrial Cadets and supported by Heriot Watt University, Topcon Positioning Systems and the Emirates Green Building Council.
The programme enabled large numbers of students from across England, Scotland and Wales to access a high-quality experience that develops their employability, technical and business skills needed for a career in architecture, engineering and construction.
The digital, collaborative teamworking made access to sector professionals possible in a way not normally achievable from the classroom or a construction site, marking a step-change in the way industry can deliver work experience and successfully continue to inspire the next generation of built environment professionals.
Almost half (46%) of the participants were female, 28% above the current level of female employment in the construction industry, while 10% were pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND), a further 10% were learners with English as an additional language (EAL) and 24% were Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students.
More than 150 industry experts from 37 UK contractors and consultants supported and promoted Learning in Lockdown, including many of Scape’s delivery partners. Together with students and lecturers from Heriot Watt University, they volunteered 224 hours between them. Many were on hand throughout the week to present sessions, mentor the students and answer questions.
The programme was created from Class of Your Own’s current design competition – the Esteem Pavilion Challenge. Using the full breadth of STEM subjects and focusing on design, engineering, construction and sustainability themes, the students worked online in project teams to develop their own proposals for a realistic project set in a desert environment in Dubai.
Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said: “The current situation has brought with it some unique challenges, in the face of which our industry has shown its enormous capacity to adapt to respond to society’s needs. During these difficult periods, it’s more important than ever that we continue to look to the future and nurturing the next generation of construction professionals to tackle our industry’s skills gap is absolutely vital to that.
“Seeing the industry come together from the seed of an idea initiated by one of our colleagues, Chris Clarke, to develop and deliver such a valuable work experience programme to thousands of young people is fantastic. The response from industry, educators and students alike has been humbling. This is the start of a lasting legacy across the UK, which will see us continue collaborating to create more engaging digital experiences and, ultimately, inspire many young people to consider a career in construction.”
Dean Banks, chief executive officer of Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services business, one of Scape’s delivery partners that lent their support to Learning in Lockdown, said: “During these unprecedented times, it is critical that our industry works together to continue to provide young people with vital work experience opportunities. 35 Balfour Beatty employees assisted with the programme, working with teachers and schools to make the programme as enjoyable and educational as possible.”
Djamila Boothman, careers curriculum leader, Woodside High School, Tottenham, said: “The teamwork carried the students through the toughest challenges and the pride that they felt on submission of their reports was truly moving to witness. This project was so much more than the final design. I would love for all employers, from all sectors, to provide these life-changing opportunities to young people - you have no idea how far these encounters go in empowering young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Scape Group and its partners are now planning the future of the initiative. With a focus on using digital technology to engage students, they aim to continue delivering sustainable and highly accessible learning experiences that will attract young people to a sector that desperately needs new and homegrown talent.