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Education: Adapting to digital

Posted on Oct 2, 2020 by Cambridge Catalyst

Local social enterprise Form the Future shares how it weathered the pandemic

Form the Future CIC’s mission is clear – to connect young people to a world of career possibilities, inspire them to dream big and empower them to fulfil their potential. Over the last few months, the pandemic has shown that this mission has never been more important, and that high-quality careers education is vital to help the next generation find their place in a rapidly changing world.

In the last five years, thisCambridge-based social enterprise has reached over 62,741 students, hosted 782 events for students and utilised thousands of hours of volunteer time to inspire young people into their future careers. But like so many businesses, Form the Future has been forced change the way it operates because of coronavirus. “The biggest challenge was right at the start: the decision to stop delivering our activities in schools.

This was really hard, because we put a huge amount of effort into planning these and we know how much students get from the experience,” explains CEO Anne Bailey.

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Trying to start your career in a global recession is hard enough, but the added challenge of remote working can be a real barrier

“We immediately started to think about how we could make our services relevant and accessible if we couldn’t deliver in person. That led to a series of new resources, including our Careers Q&A videos and our Careers in the Curriculum short videos. We realised that schools would need really flexible resources that they could slot into the curriculum in bite-sized chunks – rather than taking a whole day out of school as we’ve done in the past.”

What was once an organisation primarily reliant on face-to-face encounters and in-school outreach is now realising that it can use a more digital future to its advantage. Since March, Form the Future has successfully hosted a number of virtual events – including the annual Cambridge Launchpad end-of-year celebration – to celebrate the STEM success of students from schools throughout Cambridge; and NHS Opportunities, in partnership with the NHS, to promote the wealth of careers on offer from one of the region’s
largest employers.

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“This virtual method of delivery also gives us more flexibility and means we can reach many more schools across a wider area. Converting our careers workshops into live online events also makes it easier for volunteers. No fighting through Cambridge traffic to get to a school for 9am! Our volunteers have responded really well to this,” explains Anne.

As the new academic year gets going, Form the Future is back in schools (virtually) and is seeing its work needed more than ever.

“The pandemic has raised awareness of the challenges that recent grads and school leavers are going to face, not just immediately, but for the longer term,” says Anne. “Trying to start your career in a global recession is hard enough, but the added challenge of remote working can be a real barrier. We’re hoping that the new incentives for apprenticeships and for the Kickstart programme will allow us to help many more young people into careers and help businesses plug their skills gaps.”

To find out more about Form the Future’s work, visit formthefuture.org.uk

This article first featured in Issue 7 of Cambridge Catalyst.

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