For me, one of the best parts of working at Fujitsu is being able to get involved in initiatives that have a real impact on society. This is why I was incredibly excited to oversee the launch of our new virtual work experience programme this summer.
The importance of work experience
Offering free, accessible work experience for school students is imperative in supporting talent diversity and social mobility in the tech industry. Work experience provides invaluable practical skills, industry experience, and a head start for students at the end of their school careers.
As a large technology corporation operating across the UK, Fujitsu can play a significant part in supporting students’ development and promoting careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
We have wanted to offer a formal work experience programme for some time. Recognising the educational disruption that so many students have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we accelerated the programme development.
Our vision was simple: Deliver a fair and democratic work experience programme to students throughout the country, regardless of geographical location, in order to promote diversity in the future generations of tech talent.
I’m delighted to announce that our vision has become a reality! We launched our pilot “WorkX” cohort in July 2021, delivering an exciting interactive experience to 200 students aged 14-18 over a 2-week period.
Creating a world-class virtual experience
To deliver the programme, we partnered with Springpod, an established online student work experience platform. Springpod manages the recruitment process on our behalf and helps us to ensure that safeguarding and GDPR requirements are met.
Subject matters experts from across Fujitsu collaborated to ensure that the students had the most engaging introduction to the IT industry possible and gained a practical understanding of how technology impacts society. Over the fortnight, students participated in sessions covering quantum computing, cyber security, smart cities, and more.
The final module was delivered by Nick White, Head of Junior Talent, who was able to explain the various routes into tech careers and current opportunities such as degree apprenticeships.
Inspiring young people
We were thrilled to have received over 935 applicants from students across the UK. This unprecedented level of interest reinforced the fact that we had found an educational niche that was not currently being addressed. What’s more, we attracted a diverse mix of people from backgrounds that have traditionally been underrepresented in the IT industry. 40% of participants in our first cohort were female and 66% were people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
But the best part hasn’t been seeing the number of people interested in joining – it’s been the fantastic feedback we’ve received from the students.
Before starting their work experience, 34.1% of participants were anxious or slightly anxious about finding a job in the future. This dropped to just 9.2% after they had completed the WorkX programme. We also saw a dramatic improvement when it comes to awareness of careers in the IT industry. Just 0.8% of participants said they had an “excellent” awareness prior to taking part compared to 40.6% post-programme.
In terms of the learning experience, one of our students commented: ““I personally found this programme to be fantastic. I enjoyed working self-sufficiently and at my own pace, and also participating in the interactive sessions. I have never done a work programme before, so this was fascinating and blossomed my interest into new branches of IT – such as quantum computing!”
Having been involved in initiatives with our Ability Matters employee network and charity partner, Autistica, I was particularly pleased to see the positive reaction from one participant with autism: “I really enjoyed it, and could follow it easy enough with my autism! I’m so glad that you’re working with a proper autism charity in order to create better spaces for people like me. I would definitely be considering a career with you in the future!”
Vision for the future
This is just the start for WorkX. Going forward Fujitsu aims to welcome three cohorts of students throughout year. With 150-200 student places in each cohort, this is a great opportunity for us to inspire the next generation of students across the UK and shape the digital workforce of the future.
Students aged 14-18 can register their interest to participate in future Fujitsu WorkX cohorts via the Springpod website.
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