A Week in the Life of Virtual Work Experience
Last week saw the pilot of “Global Youth Construct” – an international virtual work experience pilot delivered by Bristol WORKS, Bell Group UK and Black Professionals in Construction. It was a fantastic week filled with industry talks, live Q and A’s, skills development sessions and the opportunity to undertake a project as teams bringing together students from the UK with students from overseas. Rather than take our word for it, we would like to share blogs written by two fantastic students who participated in this week long programme.
Will is a 14 year old student
Read his blog post below:
Hi, my name is William and I was part of the virtual work experience week, working with Bell Group UK, Black Professionals in Construction and Bristol Works. During the week, I learnt core values on how to treat people in a working environment and how to work in a group to achieve a common goal. l listened to Craig Bell CEO of Bell Group UK and a number of professionals talk about the pressures of their jobs and how they’ve overcome them, especially during Covid-19; in the hope of forming a pitch to start a big project.
I was welcomed by the three groups of professionals and given a taster of what they all did and even reached out to Ghana, to one of the professionals out there! It was interesting hearing about different jobs I’d never heard of before. We then watched a video to see what Bell Group UK were about. After that we were shown our project challenge, the aim to pitch an idea to a panel of experienced ’investors‘ if you like at the end of the week. Once we had been briefed, we got put into breakout rooms. This was a separate call where we got to know our groups of about 5 students and just shared a few things about ourselves in an ice breaker session. We then got together with the whole group and made our code of conduct rules. After that we spoke to Lisa Long from Balfour Beatty and she went through the challenges of the work site as Site Manager and how she coped with being a figure head in a male dominated profession.
We started the day with our breakout rooms and another ice breaker session, I was slowly getting to know the team I was working with. We then went back into the main room and met the first professional that was coming in to do a talk. His name was Joe Shaw from PPG. It was a very interesting talk to listen to, he seemed so humbling and like he loved his job. I came away from the talk, realising that simple things like a pot of paint; goes through so many different specialist teams, just to be put in front of you for you to use. We then moved onto the industry insight session. There were 4 different people who came and talked however out of the four, Kobi’s talk just stuck in my head. He used a saying that I loved. He said “never lie, massage the truth but never lie.” This taught me to always be truthful and to respect the colleagues you have around you. Later that afternoon we did speed interviews. I was shaking maybe due to the cold, but also because I was nervous. However, doing the one to one Interviews, I felt a little bit more comfortable as I had picked up tips and tricks from the meetings earlier in the day. This was very beneficial as I quickly calmed down and answered the questions in a relaxed manner. We found common ground in me being from Bristol and the interviewer having actually done work on my school (Oasis John Williams) which was really important to break the ice and made me comfortable. Doing it made me think about how I answer questions and has made my confidence improve hugely. It also developed my ability and self-belief in myself to answer questions calmly and rationally when asked.
We had two people come in and talk to us about themselves. Lee Hamill from Bell Group UK took most of it, talking about what he values in a person in an interview. He then went on to discuss how to cold call someone and how to be savvy when speaking to customers. Lee and Jane Roberts (also from Bell Group UK) ran through some role plays and it was interesting to see how to react in different scenarios. We then had Craig Bell (CEO of Bell Group UK) come in for an hour to talk to us about his job and how he made it up from a little place in Scotland to CEO of a national and hopefully in the future an international company. He also gave little tips and answered our questions in detail which was very helpful in mind of the project and he is for sure a very good role model for a lot of young students – reminding us that you don’t have to know what you want to do in order to succeed, as long as you have determination and drive you can make it anywhere! We then moved onto working in our groups. We spent the afternoon going over the project and details regarding the cost especially.
We started the day with professionals coming in and talking about their background and possible industry careers for young people who are looking at the construction industry. A bit later in the morning we had some apprentices come in to talk to us about their background and their struggles. One of the apprentices Claude N-Sala, was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. He gave me a massive insight on how difficult some people’s life’s can be – how he never gave up with the situation he was in, he also made me realise I should never give up, whatever the challenge. I wish him the best in where he’s going and I hope he reaches his dream one day. We then moved onto Annette Bell (Co-founder of Bell Group UK) with George Bell. She talked to us about how she managed juggling family and owning a company. This was interesting as she’s such a strong role model and was very inspiring for all working parents! She took her family as priority over her work, she put her family before her wellbeing which was very commendable to see the commitment she showed to her livelihood. Later that afternoon we started composing the big project and really finalising how it was going to look and how we were going to present it.
We are due to present our final overview of the project in a pitch, a bit like on Dragons Den. It is so good for my self confidence and belief that I can start and finish a project in an eloquent and professional manner.
Overall this week has taught me to believe in myself and never cave in and give up when times get tough. Whether that’s when being interviewed or maybe not being able to complete a task or even when giving a presentation. I would like to thank everyone who gave me this opportunity and who have worked so hard to make it happen. I have grown so much during this last week and hopefully I can only improve! All my thanks to Bell Group UK, Black Professionals and Bristol Works for this amazing week! I would highly recommend to anyone if this program runs in the coming years!
Kirah is a 15 year old student
Read her blog post below:
Hey, I’m Kirah. I had the amazing opportunity to attend virtual work experience with Bell Group UK. During the week, I had met some very nice people and I was welcomed by lovely mentors. Initially, I had no interest in the construction industry, but Bell Group had made an inspiring impact on me and my future career plans.
The first day was the hardest, but once its over things tend to get easier. I found myself very shy when I first started. For me, it can take me awhile to get used to a new environment, but the mentors all played a part in making me feel more comfortable. Monday taught me to be brave, and just put yourself out there because once you’ve gotten past introductions, things normally become way easier. Monday was filled with introductions to ease into the week.
Tuesday went by quicker and mostly because I felt less anxious to talk and to get involved more. I participated in some activities and one I remember well was the speed interviews. This gave me a chance to practice my interview skills one on one, with one of the mentors. At first, I wasn’t that keen on the idea, until I was being asked the questions, I didn’t feel pressured at all. This experience taught me two great skills. To be a good listener and engage in what’s going on and to speak out and just be myself.
On Wednesday, I felt completely myself. I was asking and answering more questions and I found myself to be more inquisitive. We all had the chance to ask Craig Bell, who is the CEO of Bell Group UK, a series of questions about his role. It was interesting to have an insight on what he does, and the things he has achieved and things he is yet to achieve. It was a refreshing experience.
The main project was focused on throughout the week. This project brought out many skills from me and my peers who I was working with. I felt more confident, and we all worked as a team to come together with a finished product. This taught me to be creative and to come up with ideas. It also brought out the competitive side that I had in me.
Thanks to Bell Group, I now know who I want to be and what I need to achieve to become that person. I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of this work experience and I hope that I can be a part of this wonderful company in the future.
We are so pleased the pilot ran well and it could not have run as successfully if it wasn’t for the hard work, dedication and creativity of colleagues from Bell Group in making this happen! Likewise, the students were fantastic ambassadors and representatives of both themselves and the school. We will be looking to pilot future virtual work experience programmes and would love to share learning from this with other organisations. If you are an employer who would like to hear more or a student who would love to take up such an opportunity in the future, then please email WORKS@bristol.gov.uk