Virtual Work Experience in the Retail Sector Can Play a Key Role to Post-Pandemic Recovery

Work experience

The UK retail is a massive sector, employing more than 3 million workers, and is significant to the economy. Considering this relevance, it makes sense to invest in it post-COVID to animate the economy going forward.

The UK isn’t sitting back on the lockdown impacts. Plans are being made and implemented to address key issues, such as revitalising the economy and making up for the lost formal and professional education. It is somewhat uncertain what young people can gain from the developments. Still, with the introduction of ideas such as virtual work experience, young citizens can be hopeful about their aspirations.

Speakers for Schools launched three post-pandemic recovery surveys to know young people’s attitudes towards education and employment after the coronavirus-inspired lockdown. The survey also reveals what employers and politicians are thinking, and it studies over 2,000 young people (age 11-19), 100 MPs, and 100 business leaders in the UK.

Are Young People Thinking Positively?

Young people are thinking, and although they consider mental health support important for the lost time, work experience accessibility is also a priority.

53-63 per cent of young people within the 16-19 age bracket believe work experience in relevant fields can boost their confidence in their aspirations. In this regard, 47-55 per cent of young people in the UK between the ages 16 and 19 say that the biggest barrier towards their future career is not having access to work experience opportunities.

How Virtual Work Experience in the Retail Sector Can Function in Post-Pandemic Recovery

Although the UK retail sector recovered from the large contraction between March and April 2020, it recorded the biggest annual fall. COVID-19 presents limited opportunities, meaning labour competition is on the rise, and retail employers tend to favour prospects with the most experience in the industry. However, amidst COVID restrictions, young people in the UK still have an untapped option to secure work experience.

The reality is that to secure a formal placement in a professional area of retail, including logistics, merchandising, fashion design, or retail management, recruiters expect you to have some experience, perhaps, working in a store.

However, retail recruiters understand the pandemic challenges, and online virtual experience reduces the requirements to accommodate young people. Placements even accept filling a coronavirus-shaped gap on your CV and citing one’s activities during the lockdown. Besides, there is no penalty or restriction on students that do not focus on their career owing to the global situation.

VWEX Giving Young People a Chance: What Employers and Politicians Think

The survey shows that 91% of employers and 95% of politicians admit the lockdown affected young people moderately to significantly.

What Employers Think

67% of employers think they understand the hopes, needs, and aspirations of young people. However, only 23% of young people feel employers understand their hopes, needs and aspirations enough. This difference could be instigated by the fact that employers (66%) gather insights of young people from their relationships with friends and family.

What Politicians Think

Like employers, politicians (87%) think they understand young people’s needs, hopes and aspirations. However, only 11% of young people accept that politicians understand their hopes, needs and aspirations. The difference may be caused by the fact that politicians (84-86%) gain insights into young people from family, friends, schools or constituents.

These differences suggest a weak connection with young people and the need to extend the frame of reference, seek insights outside of their traditional networks, or perhaps close contact with young people. A better ‘connect’ for employers and politicians would be to make direct contact with young people.

Coping with the Lost Time

As young people, retail employers and politicians think work experience is vital for making up for the lost time over the lockdown. While employers see work experience as the most important “catch-up activity” for young people, politicians consider it a “helpful non-academic activity”.

Retail companies are hiring more teenagers after the lockdown. They expect teenagers to fill entry-level jobs, and teenagers require retail for real-world skills training and much-needed cash.

Virtual WEX eliminates work experience barriers, including high cost and geography, making way for employers and young people to meet conveniently online. Moreover, online working experience brings flexibility, which allows retail employers to upscale their outreach, increase their placements and create catchment areas for young people.

What is Being Done to Boost Young People’s Interest in Virtual Work Experience?

90 percent of politicians admit that young people need government support to recover from the pandemic effects. Moreover, several organisations willing to assist young people to max out their potential need the government’s assistance.

A non-profit organisation like Speakers for Schools has networked more than 700 employers and is working with about 4,000 state secondary schools and colleges to make avenues that boost students’ aspirations. So far, the organisation has offered over 56,000 virtual placements through its VWEX programme, and the number is expected to grow in the coming academic year.