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“You can’t be what you can’t see” 

By Liz Whiteley15 February 20214 min read

The Magic happened before Christmas and I was incredibly excited to start a week-long pilot of virtual work experiences in Crompton House School in a DfE opportunity area in Oldham with forward thinking schoolteachers. The aim was to overcome the inability of students to do face to face work experience because of COVID-19 restrictions, and to open their eyes to a broader range of job roles. After all, how can you be a Data Scientist, Cyber Specialist, or a User Researcher if you do not know what they do, how to get there, and the skills required?

This was a true partnership of business and education working together to show students the different jobs in Digital, Construction and more. These two sectors are the first of the new T Level qualification being implemented nationally.

Using several years’ experience of working on national citizen services, I wanted to apply the service design principles that we use at Methods to understand how students navigate the plethora of options for their future. I put myself in their shoes and became a consumer of what Methods do, i.e., helping to develop digital services.

How could I help mitigate the risks of uptake into an Apprenticeship or T level industrial placement? How can we get students to truly make informed choices and self-serve their future without the bias of adults, cultures, and the mass overload of information at our fingertips?

The words “what do you want to be when you grow up?” are used by well-meaning people but is this the wrong question? Should the right one be more along the lines of “What interests you” switching the focus from saddling kids with an obligation to have a plan, to an opportunity to pursue interests.

In short…  “you can’t be what you can’t see”.

Virtual Work Experience Pilot


For me, the journey started 5 years ago when Methods gave me the opportunity to open a Manchester Office and follow my passion for “Tech4Good” and giving back to the community. I attended the Mayor’s Digital Summit and volunteered to work with Bridge GM as an Enterprise advisor. I supported initiatives for students within disadvantaged areas to help them understand the different skills required in Digital whilst mapping current provision to the Gatsby measures, 8 benchmarks that are measured nationally in schools. According to research, young people who have regular contacts with employers while at school are much less likely to become so-called ‘Neets’ (“Not in Education, Employment or Training”). The findings from the Education and Employers’ charity, suggest a long-term benefit of links with business. The research found that employers’ involvement was stronger in independent and grammar schools and found if students had four or more contacts with employers before they left school, they would be 86% less likely to become a Neet.

So how do the kids level up?  

Although an extremely complex issue including, Digital Poverty, the workplace is now redefined by COVID-19, and with companies not looking to return to offices full time and operating as a distributed workforce, Crompton House had to cancel work experience for most pupils. As an area in lockdown, we looked at the positives and advantages we could create out of the situation. Our new virtual working world, where Government and businesses have shifted to online services, will never return to the previous model. COVID-19 has provided the opportunity to rethink the whole work experience provision and work encounters.

Reaching into the classroom to show students the unlimited possibilities to break stereotypes and gender specific roles, our virtual work experience had a line-up of past pupils on degree apprenticeships within local enterprises, a female data scientist and cyber specialist, a digital engineer in construction, RAF and health professionals, software developers, a commercial manager, and bid writer. All of these professions had technology at the forefront of the next chapter in their business growth plans. Our futures “champions” interactively engaged with students to answer questions, link subjects with their jobs and talk to them about their challenges and barriers on their learning journey.

New Yorker, Scott Belsky, CPO Adobe, recently identified in the top 8 trends for 2021 the era of ‘eduployment’, the process of identifying a trade, getting an education, getting a job (or starting a company) will become fully integrated, rather than enduring an expensive education only to assume the complete risk of your career. The new ‘eduployment’ model is the vertical integration of education and employment; companies will train people and then set them up in a marketplace to start getting jobs in the local areas under their supervision. The vertical integration of education and employment will help address (at-scale) major systemic issues in the economy. Our UK Apprenticeship service recognises this challenge and is working hard to drive up the numbers of apprentices in businesses.

Carrying on the three-word trend from 2020, Jon Banks (teacher at Crompton House) and I are having a “wash up” in early 2021 to Reflect. Rethink. Replan – we have gained some valuable insights into how we use data within the school for the next generation of experiences to inspire futures.

Thank you to Methods, Crompton House School, Bridge GM and Positive Steps for the privilege of being able to help re-engineer ways of meeting government measures, data collection and most importantly helping to inspire futures and address inequality issues in a fast changing environment.


If you have any thoughts or questions, please get in touch with me on liz.whiteley@methods.co.uk