Drax Power Station usually hosts dozens of school pupils during its work experience programmes every year, as well as thousands of visitors from schools and colleges who get free educational tours.
However, during the Covid crisis all educational visits to the site have had to stop, to reduce Covid risks and protect Drax’s key workers, who operate its power stations and keep the lights on for millions of homes and businesses across England and Scotland.
To ensure pupils are not missing out on the valuable insights they gain from work experience programmes, the energy company has put together a four-day online programme for disadvantaged students from schools across England.
It has plans to roll the virtual work experience programme out nationally, supporting the company’s Mobilising a Million initiative, which aims to increase social mobility by creating opportunities to support education and improve employability, ensuring the country has the skilled workforce needed to support a post-Covid, green economic recovery.
Drax Group’s head of sustainable business, Vicky Bullivant, said: “We work closely with schools in our communities to inspire children from all backgrounds to study STEM subjects, so the next generation has the education and skills needed to support businesses like ours as we continue to develop and grow.
“With students unable to visit our sites during the Covid crisis, it’s essential they don’t miss out on the opportunities businesses like Drax would usually provide.
“Virtual Work Experience builds on the work we’ve already done to provide laptops, free internet access and virtual tours of the power station to ensure no students are left behind in their studies during the lockdown.”
Students who applied to take part in Drax’s virtual work experience programme can choose from four different business streams: Engineering, Business Support, IT and Project Management & Finance.
Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan said: “Giving young people the chance to gain a first glimpse into the workplace is vital to inspire their career goals and open their eyes to the wide range of opportunities available to them.
“It’s fantastic to see Drax offering these brilliant opportunities.”
Drax partnered with Teach First to deliver its virtual work experience programme - an educational charity which aims to build a fair education for all by tackling inequality in the sector.
Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said: “Even before the pandemic hit, the poorest pupils were too often left behind.
"Their odds of succeeding at school and in the working world are now even tougher as a result of Covid-19 Work experience is a vital opportunity for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain the skills and connections they need to succeed. We're grateful to businesses like Drax for helping to make sure that every child can maximise their potential.”
Participants in Drax’s virtual work experience programme learnt about the energy company, focusing on developing employability skills and learning about their business area through conversations with employees and targeted projects. They also had the opportunity to ask members of Drax’s executive committee about their careers during a Q&A session.
Engineering student, Tahmid Md, said: “This was a great week and I’ve learnt a lot from the experience. The CV building and interview sessions were especially helpful, and I really enjoyed the engineering projects I took part in.”
This year’s Covid lockdown resulted in many students being homeschooled for months, so the Drax virtual work experience programme took place during the Easter Holidays, so that participants did not miss any more vital classroom time during the school term.
Drax plans to host two more virtual work experience programmes during the summer and October school holidays.