upReach launch new Assessed Virtual Internships to tackle Covid social mobility crisis

With graduate employers cancelling and reducing opportunities, the employment prospects for students is dire. But for those from disadvantaged backgrounds that don’t have a network or prior work experience to fall back on, the outlook is even worse.

To tackle this growing social mobility crisis, award-winning charity, upReach are launching a new range of Assessed Virtual Internships exclusively for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Offered to over 1,000 disadvantaged students, and delivered by industry experts from leading City firms, the programme promises to transform opportunities for a generation.

Existing mass-market “virtual experiences” are limited in their impact. Most are only a few days long, and few offer the same benefits as in-person work experience or events. Networking with current employees, interacting with fellow participants and working in teams on real-life projects are key features missing from most programmes. Critically, most mass-market virtual internships lack any real form of assessment, making it hard for employers to recognise the performance of participants.

John Craven, CEO of upReach, said “upReach Assessed Virtual Internships are unique in that they combine expert training and networking opportunities with team projects and performance assessment. During the four week programme, interns are continuously assessed, with feedback provided on weekly projects and an end of internship assessment centre. The assessment aspect makes it more credible to graduate recruiters than unassessed virtual work experience opportunities that are open to all.”

Working in partnership with industry experts from firm such as BlackRock to deliver high quality technical training, upReach are offering opportunities in sectors including Investment Banking, Law and Consulting. Training will be given in soft and hard skills, from communication skills to coding, and a variety of networking opportunities will give students a chance to grow their professional network. Participants will be assessed throughout the virtual four week programme, with top performers being recommended for graduate positions at upReach’s partner employers – that include leading firms such as Bank of America, Deloitte, McKinsey and Slaughter and May.

The new Internship programme is being offered to over 1,000 disadvantaged students graduating in 2020 or 2021 who are supported by upReach, with students finding out this week if their application has been successful.

Notes to editors

upReach are an award-winning social mobility charity that support over 1,600 students to secure top graduate jobs, in partnership with City firms such as Bank of America, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey and Slaughter and May. A team of 26 employees provide personalised support helping to broaden horizons, raise aspirations and enable disadvantaged students to develop the skills, networks and experiences to succeed on merit. upReach won Charity of the Year in 2019 at the Charity Times Awards, and won the 2020 Embracing Digital Award in May’s Charity Governance Awards.

Contact Details
John Craven, CEO – john.craven@upreach.org.uk. 07971274469
Aurora Justice, Virtual Internships Manager – aurora.justice@upreach.org.uk

Background Information

The impact of losing summer internship opportunities will be greater on disadvantaged students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
Inferior access to professional networks, career advice, work experience and extracurricular activities creates an “employability skills gap” between disadvantaged students and their more-advantaged peers that leads to worse graduate outcomes.

Internships are vital opportunities to build networks, gain technical industry knowledge and improve soft skills. Employers often recruit graduates from the pool of students who completed their internship, so internships can offer a direct route into competitive industries.

While more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are now getting into university, obtaining a good degree is not enough to secure a top graduate job. Disadvantaged students who achieved a first class degree are still less likely to enter a top occupation than their more-advantaged peers who only achieved a lower second class degree, at Russell Group universities (Friedman & Laurison 2019, “The Class Ceiling: Why it pays to be privileged”).

With greater access to networks through their family or school, students from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to be able to build technical career sector knowledge and gain insights into professional careers despite the cancellation of internships during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sutton Trust report “Social Mobility and Covid-19” states: “In the coming months and years, interventions to promote and protect social mobility in the job market will be vital. … It’s also important for employers to ensure that advantaged young people are not gaining a competitive edge in this time through less formal opportunities gained through personal connections, which are not open to all young people.”

Beneficiaries of the social mobility charity upReach shared deep concerns about internship cancellations when surveyed on the impact of Covid-19 control measures. Students fear that if these opportunities are permanently lost, they would be at a disadvantage to those with existing networks to rely upon when seeking graduate jobs. The Survey Report, published in March, includes quotes such as:

“A lot of coursemates already have experience in our industry, and with a lot of open days and experience focused events now being cancelled, the people who are less connected to this industry through already established contacts have very little ability to gain experience and show interest in companies.” – upReach Associate


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