Virtual work experience guide for parents

What is Virtual Work Experience? A Guide for Parents

Taking the step into tertiary education can be scary for any high school student. There’s a lot of pressure on kids to know what they want to do, choose the right subjects and get good grades to enter a field or degree they know little about.

The real world is moving faster than any parent or teacher can keep up with and many of today’s teenagers will work jobs that probably haven’t been created yet. A report by CEDA, NCVER and AlphaBeta discovered nearly 60% of Australian students are studying or training for occupations where at least two thirds of jobs will be automated. 

With hundreds of students at every high school, some career counsellors are often short on time and just looking to tick a box. 

All the while, high school students are buried under mountains of schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, sport, part-time work and making time for friends. Gaining work experience and deciding what job they will do in 5-8 years’ time is low on the priority list. 

This is why Virtual Work Experience can give young people clarity, motivation and skills for their future. Beyond making the unknown less scary, it gives students a chance to start building a professional network. Knowing just one person in the industry could help them leap ahead of their peers when it comes to finding that first job after studying.

So, what is a Virtual Work Experience?

Is it a video game? Is it endless Zoom meetings? Will students gain “real world experience”?

No, no and yes.

Virtual Work Experience for high school students is a try-before-you-buy type of immersive and flexible online program designed in collaboration with employers. The name gives it away: it really is as simple as work experience, done virtually.

Just like working from home, Virtual Work Experience is still a fairly new concept, but it’s been gaining serious momentum as how and where the world works is completely reshaped.

When choosing subjects and forging a career path, teenagers often pick what they are good at without really knowing what the job or market is like on the other side.

In Virtual Work Experiences, students buddy-up with mentors and industry professionals to discover what the industry, job market and work is actually like. 

Say your teenager is good at science and maths and loves being immersed in nature. Perhaps they think becoming an environmental scientist sounds super cool. A Virtual Work Experience program would line them up with a workplace and a real environmental scientist, giving them a chance to dive deeper on the subject and ask direct questions. Do they sit at a desk all day? How much do they earn? What’s office life like?

Why should students complete a Virtual Work Experience program (or more)?

Purchasing a new car is a big decision. You’d never buy before taking a test drive to make sure it’s right for you. Surely our teenagers deserve the same chance to test drive a career or job before committing years of their time and racking up student debt for something that sounds fun at 15.

Statistics show about 50% of university students drop out or change courses in the first year. A Virtual Work Experience could have given them a true taste for the industry before they set off on their career journey, not to mention avoiding an extra year of student debt.  

Understanding what it’s like to actually work a job can give young people the hunger, drive and motivation to pursue their career, or empower them with the realisation it’s not for them. Either way they walk away with greater clarity and confidence with new soft skills.

How does a Virtual Work Experience work?

Our Virtual Work Experiences are structured four-week programs that give young people the chance to learn about the industry, work with a specific company and speak one-on-one with someone in the field. The project work and experiences are designed to show the everyday workings of that profession. 

A virtual placement can happen in any city or town in Australia where there is an internet connection. Our platform allows students to join a collaborative virtual workplace and work through self-paced work and check-in modules that provide instant feedback. In the end, students receive an industry-accredited microcredential in the form of a digital badge as proof of their skills and experience.

The work and structure varies from employer to employer. We have our own single platform but often employers also use internal communication tools too such as email, Microsoft Teams, Slack or others. This gives students exposure to essential tools used in a 21st century workplace. 

Employers will evaluate and reward students who demonstrate passion, creativity and productive team culture. 

Do students gain the same experience as they would IRL?

Absolutely.

A Virtual Work Experience gives students a structured taste of the real world and can truly replace real-world work experience.

While it is still a foreign concept for many students, parents, schools and employers, a Virtual Work Experience program connects students and industry before they start racking up student loans. 

Some people will stomp up and down that students need to be physically in a workplace to learn and grow, but funnily enough the internet itself was received with a similar tone.

Here's an interesting comment from 1995 about the internet: “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works”.

Real-life work experience for high school students sometimes amounts to fetching coffee and stapling documents in a corner. Restocking the printer with paper is no way to inspire a career, right? That’s why Virtual Work Experience is specially structured to engage and put the student through on-the-job learning projects.

In yet another benefit, since most teenagers are reliant on someone else (probably you) driving them around, a virtual placement takes away the need to call mum’s taxi or live in a major city centre.

What’s in it for employers?

It’s not just the warm fuzzy feeling of giving a leg up to the next generation of workers. Most employers actually have a workforce succession plan. This helps make sure they have a steady stream of amazing young people – graduates and school leavers – to join their team and help drive their business into the next decade.

Participating in a Virtual Work Experience program gives employers a chance to connect, discover and recruit talented newcomers. We have developed a comprehensive four-week Virtual Work Experience program that allows companies to engage with students and high schools throughout Australia. This gives the employer a chance to scout new talent and build authentic relationships with the future generation.

What’s the outcome of a Virtual Work Experience?

Benefits of completing a Virtual Work Experience program include real-world experience, connecting with industry professionals, learning about different careers and developing on-the-job skills.

Students generally don’t have the know-how or industry connections to seek and find a work experience placement but it’s never too early to start building their professional network. If a student decides to pursue that job, knowing just one person in the industry can be a huge help to find a job and Virtual Work Experience might be the first connection they make.

Showing a keen interest in the field and building authentic relationships can single your child out as a bright star, helping them land on their feet as a young adult.

So, what is Grandshake’s program like?

Here at Grandshake we have created a great solution (some may call it a 😉 GRAND solution) for high schools and students to help teenagers gain real-world experience, connect with industry professionals, learn about careers and develop workforce skills.

Our four-week programs are created in partnership with national and multinational employers with capacity for multiple students to join simultaneously. Through a Virtual Work Experience with Grandshake, students will get exposure to teamwork, collaboration, problem solving and communication skills needed in a 21st-century workplace.

The virtual placement can happen in any city or town in Australia with an internet connection. Students log into our website to complete components that self-unlock week after week. Self-paced work and check-in modules provide instant feedback. 

Program-specific industry professionals and mentors are invited to our live chat or video sessions where students can find out how to get career-ready and answer any burning questions through our VideoAsk functionality.

Once finished, students gain an industry-accredited microcredential in the form of a digital badge. This is proof of their experience and skills, which in turn may lead to an employment outcome.

Everything runs through our online platform, which is easy to access (web based with no fancy software or hardware needed) and students can join from anywhere in Australia (including regional communities with poor internet).

Don't be a stranger. If you're keen to learn more about how Grandshake works, message us via our Live Chat or go to our contact page and submit your burning questions.

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