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Virtually remote: the world of Whizz-Kidz work placements has gone digital 

Whilst Covid 19 has sadly made some students defer university and college places, the world of work appears to be opening up for wheelchair users against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

Whizz-Kidz Team
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Whizz-Kidz Team

For years, Whizz-Kidz has been connecting employers with work placement trainees from small businesses through to large corporations. Since lockdown, our discussions with organisations have inevitably shifted towards the new world of virtual work placements.

So how does it work? “It’s definitely a different kettle of fish these days,” said Callum, our Work Placements Coordinator. “The work has shifted towards a more task-focused experience. Because our young people can’t actually be in offices, we get together on Zoom calls with them together with the host employer, we all discuss what needs to be done, then arrange a catch up call to see how things are progressing. It’s much more like how freelancers work.” So the ‘shadowing’ of particular job roles has gone out of the window with more of a client-contractor relationship.

“On the plus side, it’s definitely more flexible which is a good thing. The whole 9-5 is not relevant. Neither is location. For example, we’ve got one young person who trains in his sport outside of the UK for six months of the year, currently he’s in Greece and he’s been offered the opportunity to participate in placement within a business based in the UK. Usually, it wouldn’t be possible for him to take part but now can do his work placement around his training. We’ve got another placement at Coca Cola, where our young person is in Scotland and the company is based in London. It’s kind of liberating.”

Alongside location, the additional stress of the commute, is also no longer ‘a thing’. Daisy, our Employability and Support Coordinator said, "Virtual placements have got rid of the whole travelling to work issue. For example, we have one young person who finds travelling extremely stressful, the planning of routes and the time it takes is a huge worry. So the virtual work placement has been really helpful for her."

So have the number of companies Whizz-Kidz works with increased as a result? “Yes” said Callum. “ We’ve started to have conversations with a whole bunch of new companies since lockdown and the results are starting to come through now. Traditionally summer was the time for work placements but as companies emerge from the restrictions placed on them, they are opening up to hosting virtual placements and we have many starting in autumn instead.”

Daisy agrees, "The conversations we are now having with host employers have changed. Pre Covid, I just couldn't send a young person to a place they wanted to go to, if the offices didn't have ramps, the space or accessible loos. Now that doesn't matter. I used to get quick responses from businesses replying politely that they couldn't host a work placement, but now, more businesses are open to having a conversation about virtual work placements. Everyone is a lot more flexible these days."

‘Who with?’ I hear you ask. “Discovery Channel, the RSPB, Coca Cola, Nash Business Systems, Screen Alliance Wales, EY, the list goes on.” 

Diane, our coordinator in sunny Scotland explains that the basics haven’t changed. “I discuss with each young person what their interests are, and what skills they want to develop as part of what we call, ‘Employability Action Planning’. The plan could involve taking some courses followed by a short stint with a relevant employer. After the virtual placement, we revisit the Action Plan to look at further development opportunities.”

Whizz-Kidz recently placed Abbie on a virtual work placement with Brand Content. Rachel, her host told us, "We would love to welcome more people like Abbie to come and work with us at BrandContent. I have always felt disappointed that the BrandContent office isn’t more wheelchair accessible and this has reminded me that, whilst physical accessibility is really important, there is a lot more we could be doing to work and engage with people over video instead of insisting on physical meetings"

Think your child is ready to take on a work placement? Then contact us

If not, why not suggest they boost their confidence at one of our Work Skills Workshops. Katie secured an interview after taking one of these workshops. She told us: “The workshop really reminded me to remember the basics of interviewing. To be myself, remind myself ‘I can do this’ and prepare my notes and questions. Find out more about our Work Skills Workshops.