Girl doing virtual work experience

JM’s Virtual Work Experience Week scoops COVID Comms Award

23rd November 2020

Johnson Matthey’s Virtual Work Experience Week, which brought new skills and insights into how science and technology is used to make the world cleaner and healthier to 115 students from across the UK, has picked up the Best Online External Event Award at the 2020 COVID Comms Awards.

The programme, delivered with the support of social mobility charity, Speakers for Schools, aimed to address the challenge students were faced with following the COVID-19 pandemic; an entirely disrupted education that would lead to an unpredictable future. A recent study1 revealed that almost half of current undergraduates in the UK believe the pandemic has had a negative effect on their chances of finding a job. And more than 61% of employers in the UK had cancelled their physical work experience placements1. JM was keen to find a solution that would open options to an even wider group of students than previously, as location was no longer a factor.

In July 2020, we ran a virtual programme: ‘Make the world cleaner and healthier with Johnson Matthey’. We welcomed a diverse group of 115 students aged 14-18 onto our first ever online work experience week. Speakers for Schools is a social mobility charity, supporting students from a range of different backgrounds, and this helped to ensure we worked with a mix of people in terms of gender, ethnicity, life experiences and social needs.

Unlike our normal placements, where students would often shadow employees, we developed a programme of content specifically for the students, offering a mix of expert presentations and interactive activities. Students had the chance to work as individuals and in small groups, allowing them to develop confidence in their own abilities and as team players. At the end, 80% said they felt very or extremely confident in their ability to succeed in the science industry, compared to 60% at the start of the week.

Director of Communications, Sally Jones, said:
“COVID-19 has forced us to think creatively about many things across our business, including how we could continue to help young people understand more about careers in science. We were thrilled to work with Speakers for Schools who have developed a fantastic tool for students and businesses to connect virtually, something that’s especially important at the moment. The online programme allowed us to reach students in areas where we don’t operate, and connect with students who might find it difficult to access our sites for various reasons. It was great to see us reach 115 students in this first work experience week, and winning this award is the cherry on top. A big congratulations to all involved.”
JM is committed to improving access to high quality science education. We are targeting learners at a socio-economic disadvantage, to help them identify more positively with science through improved knowledge, self-confidence, attainment and attitudes. With our online work experience programme, we hope to educate, inspire and connect students to JM people whom they can relate to through shared ambitions and values – all from the safety and ease of their homes.

Our next placement will run in February, closely followed by our participation in Speakers for Schools’ Green Skills Campaign, launching in the first week of April.


1Sutton Trust: ‘COVID-19 and Social Mobility Impact Brief #5: Graduate Recruitment and Access to the Workplace’ by Erica Holt-White and Rebecca Montacute.

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