Virtual Work Experience For Young People – Insights to the world of work through a digital platform

blog 22 Dec 2021

We partnered with the education charity Teach First to provide virtual work experience to a group of students - giving them a unique chance to experience the construction and rental industry, demonstrating the sustainable and digital elements most people wouldn’t associate with it.

Teach First is fighting to make the education system work for every child. Their work experience programme is designed to inspire pupils in schools serving disadvantaged communities, giving them the tools they need to succeed.

Our partnership enabled four students studying for their A levels or BTEC qualifications to experience a five-day work experience placement with Sunbelt Rentals. We helped de mystify careers within the construction and rental industry, by profiling the plethora of job opportunities in operations and support functions both in-house and through our customer network. At the same time, the programme gave our employees an opportunity to volunteer as mentors to the students. Over the course of the week, 22 volunteers had the opportunity to collectively work with the four students, who are all located in schools in London Boroughs.

Due to the pandemic restrictions, the work experience programme was conducted online. The students met some of our customers – namely Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 Organising Committee, SCS Railways (HS2) and Cadent Gas - to help understand the pivotal role we play as a key supplier in major projects.

The students, Ulas, Ryan, Usamah and Ahzhar, all had the opportunity to understand the varied skills required in the world of work on large infrastructure and events projects that included:

o Understanding of our digital systems
o How social media platforms are used as key marketing and communications tools
o Sustainability, the environment and social impact – how the latest green equipment and technology is used to reduce carbon emissions on projects
o Our current apprenticeships, jobs and progression pathways
o How to develop important professional skills for the modern workplace
o Employability and soft skills – such as communication, teamwork, confidence presenting and time management.

“I am so pleased that the students had the opportunity to gain valuable skills and explore career and higher education options through this virtual work experience programme. It has enabled them to make better informed decisions about their next career options, that they would have not thought of before. I also want to thank our fantastic customers for taking the time to share learnings and opportunities from within their own organisations – it really helped to open our students ‘eyes to the exciting contracts and future careers for them that are out there in our industry!”.Swati Patel, Social Impact and Partnerships Manager, Sunbelt Rentals UK.

We caught up with the four students, Ulas, Ryan, Usamah and Ahzhar, during their work experience week with Sunbelt Rentals.

What was your outlook when you approached the work experience? (Ryan)

"We are four students that go to sixth form colleges that are on a work experience week with Sunbelt Rentals UK. Starting this work experience after not having done any in a long time made me nervous about what task we were going to be given".

What have you got up to this week? (Usamah)

"On the first day we were introduced to the company and Andy Wright, CEO of Sunbelt Rentals UK. The following day we did a BIM introduction session which demonstrated how digital devices and IT is used in the construction industry. Mid-week we did an IT and coding session, which I found very interesting because I was interested in this sector as I am studying IT and Business. I was very passionate about it. On Thursday, we were joined by a University student currently participating on a 1-year industrial placement with Cadent Gas to talk about her university experience and interviews, she also gave great advice for example always ask questions and how to structure your CV. I enjoyed this type of virtual experience - it was different, but also a nice new experience".

What knowledge, skills etc have you developed through the sessions? (Ulas)

"The skills and knowledge taught during the work experience week has been exceptionally diverse. Every session has been communicated to us via the passionate employees over at Sunbelt Rentals UK. We’ve been taught, developed and nurtured many skills such as the importance of communication, staying up to date with technology, BIM, Digital Twins, Social Media Marketing and engagement, Logistics, IT, Programming, CV, Interview Skills, Personal Statements, etc. We’ve mainly been educated on the importance of communication, not only in the logistical sense, but also in your personal environments. The significance of resilience, the power to persevere through any and everything, such as prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and hatred was presented to us which motivated each and every one of us to be confident in ourselves and most importantly trust ourselves. The skills and knowledge taught to us have not only been work skills, but rather life skills which I will forever be grateful to have received”

What you’ll take away from the placement - how has the placement positively impacted you or your future? (Azhar)

"We have learnt a variety of transferable skills that apply to both life and specific fields and also an abundant amount of insights into business operations and brand marketing for a company or organisation. A more clear view of the future has been revealed to us – especially seeing the increased amount of changes towards more advanced technology. We feel more interested towards the future of technology and ecstatic to start a more in depth learning into this sector. The experience overall has allowed us to be aware of more information that should help us in any judgement we may have in the future".

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