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ROK First Roundtable Event: 25 March 2021

Assessing the Impacts of the pandemic on Employability Opportunities
for Young People

ROK Roundtable explores the impact of the pandemic on young people's employment opportunities 

On 25 March, Reach Out 2 Kids (ROK) held our first virtual roundtable discussion of 2021, looking at the main difficulties facing young people as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and exploring how they can best navigate their way through this new, - and often challenging - employment environment. 

During the online event organised by ROK, students and teachers from Clapton Girls' Academy and St Ignatius' College, alongside representatives from software company Optimizely (formerly Episerver), production company Jelly, innovative apprenticeship provider Multiverse and healthcare specialist Bupa, looked at ways that education and industry can come together to create tangible, sustainable solutions to the employability problems faced by students which have been created by the pandemic. 

Discussions included what steps and measures companies take now to help young people overcome issues with employability, and how young people can best deal with the current challenges and future-proof their future employment opportunities. 

The students made a number of suggestions on actions companies could take, including going into schools to recruit; providing mentoring opportunities, week-long virtual schemes during the holidays; and shorter drop-in sessions. 

In turn, the companies advised students to ask questions of companies and show an interest in what they do, to broaden their horizons beyond their interests when it came to seeking work experience and volunteering opportunities, and not to underestimate the level of empathy that businesses and industry have for young people during this period. 

Commenting on the event, Denise Stephenson, founder and CEO of ROK, said: 

"Whilst some young people remain refreshing optimistic about what they want to do in the future, the issue for them, on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, is how they are going to get there. 

We heard from students today who are anxious about the withdrawal of work experience or volunteering opportunities, have had businesses closed their doors to young people and will not engage with them or their schools. But as one student put it companies have to find a way of reengaging, helping young people to find their feet in what is a very unsteady world. 

We're very grateful to everyone who attended today and made it such a success: the students for being so engaged, open and honest and the companies for their enthusiasm and valuable advice and expertise. 

Connecting education and industry: it is what we do at ROK and we look forward to helping our partner companies deliver some of the initiatives discussed today for our young people, who are in desperate need of help at this time." 

Nikki Storey, CEAG (Careers Education Advisory and Guidance) Lead at Clapton Girls Academy, said: 

"I felt the ROK Roundtable was a great opportunity for the students, they were really engaged throughout and the different stages of the session (student focused, employer focused, and Q&A) meant that everybody got a chance to hear from everyone else, which was really beneficial." 

If you are a school and interested in getting involved with a future ROK event, you can visit our Make your School ROK page or email

If you are a company or business and interested in getting involved with a future ROK event, you can visit our Make your Company ROK page or email

Thank you to Sahanshil Dangol from Jelly for the amazing scribe of the event shown at the top of this page!

ROK First Roundtable Discussion: Welcome
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