Four months ago, at Drive Forward, we planned for a successful upcoming year filled with many successes, work placements and many coffee meetings with our community of corporate partners and SME’s. If someone mention to me at that point, I would need to learn how to use: Zoom, House Party, WebEx, Teams and Dropbox, I would have assumed it was a new language that was being implemented. If at this time, someone told me that I won’t be able to manage any physical work placements to best support our young people, nor will I have the option to see any of the partners who support us, which I may add is the biggest part of my role, I wouldn’t have believed it!
Adapt and drive forward
Four months ago, like many of us, Covid-19 and this pandemic shook the globe and surrounding families, friendship groups, business and individuals. Along with many others, I needed to find a new way to be the Head of Corporate Engagement at Drive Forward- but how? It is our goal at Drive Forward to support our young people from 16-26 into sustainable employment, and provide the tools needed to ensure they are ready employment such as running employability events, sourcing internships, job shadows, work placements and opportunities. To halt this, it not only shook my role personally, but placed a hold on the way we once looked at employment.
As so many of us, I quickly learned I needed to adapt and keep my main goals in mind: Continuing to build and maintain meaningful relationships with corporate partners; whilst providing access to opportunities and support for care-experienced young people such as work placements, skills building sessions, and so much more.
Introducing “virtual work placements”
After many conversations, multiple meetings and weeks later, I’m so pleased to share the success of my first “virtual work placement”, provided by our partner, Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) which is a top law firm that operates in 20 different countries globally.
“I was able to learn how specific procedures are put in place and the reason why. I was also able to learn on all platform how much you have to take in consideration from both parties. I also learned how a day to day role in each department. With its tech I got to learn each stage it takes to maintain the tech, as with making sure everyone wellbeing in a work place and different thing we have to understand… The best part I would say is the amount if different topics we learn in are short space of time is great because it covers everything.” – Tionne, 20
The support SPB provided via their Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Wendy Ramshaw was nothing short of innovative, collaborative, insightful and successful. The cohort of young people provided from Drive Forward was 5, from this Wendy then took each of their interests and was able to create a personalised, in real time 1 full week experience in a law firm. The session over the week was so interactive and so real life, that we even had minor details such as 15 minute breaks scheduled!
During the 1-week session which was 9:30-4:30 each day, our young people and myself were able to gain new skills in: Business Development, HR, I&D & Wellbeing. Each day, we were welcomed with different employees from SPB who spoke to us about the above areas, their experiences and at the end of the day Wendy provided our young people with an exercise on what they learned to be completed the next day. In addition, on the last day, they were able to have mock interviews and update their CV’s with the skills their learned over the week.
“Squires was really good! Everyone was lovely. I learnt quite a bit about the company and the ins and out of how they run which was interesting. Went so quick though!” – Abigail, 18
The session ended with a presentation where the young people collaborated independently from SPB and formed a team to present their findings on the week and completed their task at hand which was: To format a plan of what was needed to ensure a successful move for an office/business is needed.
“As a firm we are committed to improving access to the profession and despite the lockdown, are endeavouring to provide insights into pursuing a career in a law firm whether that be as a lawyer or as a professional. It has been an absolute pleasure to be able to deliver this programme with Drive Forward Foundation and whilst virtual placements will never be a replacement for in person events, it has enabled us to continue to reach young people and provide meaningful experiences that will empower them to pursue a fulfilling career. We look forward to inviting our particpants and others to our office in London when we re-open and continue our support”. Wendy Ramshaw, Inclusion & Diversity Manager.
Innovating for bigger impact
The support that was provided was crucial for me to achieve my objective of developing an effective framework for the planning, delivery and evaluation of virtual work placements that can be adapted to the multiple requirements of different partners and replicated across our network. Not only did we find this placement successful, with the help of our partners we are able to grow the CV’s, experiences and employment insights of 5 more of our young people. Without their support, and continued dedication to our charity we would not have the great success that we do. For this, we are grateful!
I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish at Drive Forward and across our partners in the next four months.