Technology entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star Piers Linney, the co-founder and Co-CEO of cloud service provider Outsourcery, has announced the launch of a pilot for workinsight.org, a not-for-profit venture to provide a digital platform that will massively scale up access to work experience.
The pilot, which will be run in association with two London schools and one college, already includes Microsoft UK as a business participant and has gathered support from Esther McVey, MP and Minister of State for Employment.
workinsight.org is developing an automated, digital platform to connect 14 – 19 year old students, via their school or college, with employers of all sizes providing short yet informative work place ‘insights’. Crucially, the system will create a level playing field, removing the potential bias of details such as race, religion, gender and background.
Those aged 16-24 years not in employment, education or training (NEET) may also be able to take part in a pilot through plans to partner with Job Centre Plus.
The scheme was inspired by Piers’s own experience of trying to break into the City and having to make education and career choices without fully understanding all of the options open to him. Over recent years when Piers has engaged with young people and teachers, he has found them desperate to secure scarce work experience, so he decided to design a digital solution that would ensure every young person has access to inspiring and multiple work place experiences.
Piers Linney, Founder and Trustee of workinsight.org, said: “For the first time, workinsight.org will remove the traditional selection processes that – consciously or not – often result in barriers to entry for young people. Access to work place experience is influenced by socio-economic background, historic academic record, race, gender, disability, sexuality, religion or even just questionable fashion sense or poor interview skills. By removing these criteria, every young person will be on a completely level playing field when it comes to accessing the world of work.
“By having the opportunity to do multiple work placements young people will make more well-informed decisions about their choice of qualifications, internships, employment, careers, training, education or apprenticeships. These opportunities should not just be available to those with the right support, school or social networks, but to everyone. Social mobility has stagnated and talent is not being allowed to find its root and blossom.”
There is strong evidence that those who had access to multiple work placements experienced significantly enhanced employment prospects. A recent survey by the Education and Employers Task Force found that only 15 per cent of young adults had engaged with employers at least three times, but that those who had experienced multiple contacts with employers went on to experience employment benefits later.
workinsight.org will provide access to multiple placements with a secure, private portal. All participants will have access to real-time feedback and data via dashboards, and security is provided by a closed-loop whereby individual participants are always known to a school or college or their Job Centre Plus.
Minister for Employment Esther McVey said: “Work experience is vital in helping young people to get their foot in the door and build a career. The internet has changed the way we look for jobs and projects such as workinsight.org can make this a more exciting, open and effective process.
“The growth of the digital world has allowed for a number of new opportunities to be created in a way that is more accessible for everyone. With youth unemployment falling now for ten months in a row, it’s really important that young people from all backgrounds get to share in the economic recovery.
“I know from my own experience how valuable it is to have tried your hand at a range of jobs and this innovative project will make it easier for young people to get the skills and experience that future employers want.”
As well as providing better access for young people, the platform also seeks to boost the process for small businesses, with resource requirements and lack of connections making it difficult for smaller employers to arrange schemes or liaise with schools and colleges. As a result, most schemes are offered by large enterprises in a limited number of locations, and are too often an employer-centred experience that provides limited value and impact for young people.
Sam Antill, Chief Executive of workinsight.org, added: “I have worked with many students who, for several reasons, have had little focus, direction and motivation. workinsight.org is going to provide those much needed opportunities to experience the world of work that are denied to so many. It will provide the catalyst that many of our students, or those not in employment, education or training, need to make those all-important life changing decisions about their qualification route and career choices. The beauty of our model is that participants don’t just get one shot, if they realise their initial choice isn’t for them, they get another go. It’s a no-brainer.”
Hugh Milward, Director of Corporate Affairs at Microsoft UK, said: “workinsight.org is a fascinating proposal to help young people as they plan their first career steps. Nowhere else can young people find out about what work really involves, from employers themselves. We want to look closely at how we can become involved and look forward to the success of this concept.”
As a measurable and automated service provided by a not-for-profit organisation, employers of all sizes will contribute towards workinsight.org on a per head basis within their own budget. workinsight.org empowers employers of any size – from FTSE-100 companies to the local butcher – to provide work place experience. The power of cloud-based web site and mobile app will digitise the process of connecting employers and young people together securely whilst providing data and feedback for all parties. As the number of schools, colleges and employers grows, this digitisation will transform access to work place experience, raising the aspirations of tens of thousands of young people nationally.
Piers concludes: “We are applying an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to an opportunity where massive and growing demand is met with limited supply. The solution is to productise so that supply can be increased while using the power of software and the internet to develop an automated, hugely scalable and financially sustainable model to connect the participants seamlessly. By going live with the pilot, we hope to test the processes on paper to iron out any issues and to ensure maximum automation and therefore maximum impact.”
To date, Piers has funded the project alone and he will be seeking further funding from external sources such as employers to build the digital platform, although the workinsight.org model should quickly create a financially self-sustaining organisation as the number of Insights delivered grows.
Piers is now urging businesses of all sizes to get involved in the pilot scheme. To donate or participate, visit: www.workinsight.org