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Virtual internships offer hope in a challenging graduate market
15 July 2020
Students might be more apprehensive about summer holidays this year as the challenges of finding a job in their field, made additionally difficult by the worsening economic outlook brought on by COVID-19, have dawned. According to the Resolution Foundation, young people between the ages of 18 – 24 are the hardest hit, with a third having either lost their job or been furloughed during the pandemic compared to one in six adults.
While neither these cases apply to Roehampton University student Anam, he faces many similar job market challenges his counterparts do. He just completed his Master’s immediately following his Bachelor’s degree and it’s an achievement that has understandably left him very proud. However, like so many of his peers, Anam says the end of his degree has also brought a great level of anxiety and uncertainty.
“I do worry — my degree is in marketing, but this is a sector which requires spending at a time when the economy is shrinking” he says. Anam is part of the class of 2020 – a cohort of hundreds of thousands across the country facing uncertainty over their graduate career.
Back in March, as the country collectively turned their minds to the immediate response to the crisis, those working in education had one eye on the summer and the reality of what was on the horizon for students as they faced the challenges of the graduate jobs market in the midst of a pandemic.
Roehampton’s head of placements and work experience, Claire Shapland explains, “At Roehampton our usual plans for summer internships were rapidly disappearing. With a cohort of students seeking to gain skills and work experience and many businesses who needed support, the idea of virtual internships seemed like a logical route. Our aim is to support our students, but equally our business networks too. The students have adapted brilliantly to virtual work by producing some really tangible results for organisations in need”.
The Virtual Internships Scheme offers paid experience for a student to work remotely, allowing them to earn up to £1,000 from the placement. At the London Living Wage this is approximately 95 hours, which can be worked either full or part-time to suit the employer. The scheme is funded through our partnership with Santander Universities.
Anam secured an internship with Croydon-based SME Needs. Their director Nigel Davey has found the additional resource at this time beneficial in a number of ways:
He said, “Employing Anam initially meant that he could help me get on with things I haven’t had time to do. Importantly, however, as a marketing graduate he has given me independent feedback on my own activity. Whilst I am confident in delivering results for my clients, it often means I neglect my own marketing. His comments are getting me back on track.”
Securing work experience is as important today as it has ever been, and this is especially important for students at Roehampton. With around three quarters of our students from groups underrepresented in higher education (around 60% are first in the family to attend higher education and just over half are from an ethnic minority background) and in order for students to broaden their opportunities, they will need to be able to build professional networks and connections to support themselves to succeed. Work experience not only brings income, it builds much needed social capital.
We hope these opportunities will enable students to develop additional skills as they navigate online interviews and longer term roles remotely.
The scheme will run into the autumn and, while graduation is still on hold, we believe the internships will provide long-term benefit for our students and finally something to celebrate.