Real-World Experience, Hands-on Training Is Now Virtual

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On-the-job training and real-life experience from apprenticeships are gaining recognition as professional pathways such as university education come under scrutiny.

Just ask the son of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who invested in Multiverse. The startup wants to drive people away from university and towards a more practically based career education.

It must be working for him, as the U.K. media is running stories that a recent funding round values the tech startup at USD875 million, of which Euan Blair has a 25% stake.

Complementary to tertiary education

Another company using technology in professional education is Australian startup Forage, backed by telecoms company Telstra.

Forage is a virtual internship platform that found a niche in the remote working environment of the lockdowns.

Unlike Euan Blair’s Multiverse, the Forage business model complements tertiary education and gives university graduates access to workplace training and experience with big companies.

Many leading Australian companies have signed up. These include KPMG, Goldman Sachs, Citi and JPMorgan, law firm King & Wood Mallesons, and Accenture.

For graduates, the idea is that through Forage, they can gain an introduction to a leading company and have a “bite-sized 5-6 hour virtual work experience program” that gives them a genuine career advantage with Fortune 500 companies.

There is a four-step program. After registration, graduates look at video instructions from actual employees in companies they have targeted, and they access curated resources to help them in the task.

They can then experience what being a software engineer at JPMorgan is like, a data scientist at the Boson Consulting Group or work in markets for Citi.

They then compare their work with model examples from the company and earn a certificate.

In the final stage, they add the certificate to their resume, CV, and LinkedIn profiles and add their resume to the Forage platform to get a chance to connect with recruiters.

It is a pathway that is working for some graduates, with testimonies from people who have used the Forage platform to find full-time work.

More than one million students have registered, accessing more than 70 diverse programs across companies and industries. According to Forage, this makes it two and a half times more likely to find employment at the partner company they interned.

“This program on Forage is like having binoculars — you aren’t experiencing the entire environment yet, but you get to peer across and see what it’s like — piecing together what you have read about,” is one testimony from Alvin Fan, who landed a job with Citi in their markets team in the U.S. after using Forage.

While Forage has flourished during the pandemic, the company is predicated on the belief that remote work is here to stay. It sees organizations doubling down on this and doing more pre-skilling using virtual tools.

The feedback from employers is that Forage gives them access to a more diverse talent pool.

Alternative pathways

For graduates facing a tough road to the job of their choice, the Forage platform presents another way to get their name in front of employers.

A recent survey showed how hard graduates think it has become. Eighty percent feared it would be too hard to get a job, 89% said it would be hard to get a job in their field of study, and 67% said that if they landed their dream job, they expected it wouldn’t pay very well.

Forage presents as a digital tool with several advantages on either side of the employment equation.

Employers can get an early look at new talent, putting them in the right place to attract the people they want. And if they come on board, they will have already done a virtual orientation and know something about the organization and what is required.

For employees, they can experience a workplace remotely — even on the other side of the world — while adding some practical skills that are recognized by a certificate. It is unlike tertiary education qualifications that can only go so far today.

However, Forage founder Anthony Herring says the old signals around hiring haven’t changed.

University education and a CV are still important, but added to that are signals around motivation, intent, and drive, which can come from putting your hand up for work experience.

Increasingly, that real-world experience is likely to be delivered virtually.

Lachlan Colquhoun is the ANZ correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Prostock-Studio